This has been on our to-do list for quite some time. I am not sure who originally posted about Elephant Toothpaste, but I've seen it around several places and have been wanting to try it for several months now. With a name like Elephant Toothpaste - how could it not be awesome, right? Anyway, I finally got around to shopping for the necessary ingredients a week ago and oh my goodness am I glad I did because this was such a fun demonstration!!! When it comes to science at our house I mainly focus on child-led explorations, challenges, and experiments (you can find over 100 of those in our new science book), but I also like to throw in a few fun demonstrations such as this one here and there. These demos are famous for a reason - they're pretty remarkable!
First off, I had S prep the yeast. She measured out the correct amount and added it to the warm water and stirred. I gave it a few stirs at the end to get out one or two yeast clumps, but this is a great step to involve your child in.
Next I had S put on her safety goggles! She is so darn cute in them, I find myself inventing new activities where they might come in handy just to see *this* adorable face. Hahaha. We scored these kid-sized safety goggles at Lowes (a US hardware store) for something like $2!
I measured and added the peroxide myself, and allowed S to add the squeezes of dish soap, Colorations Liquid Watercolors, and some plastic glitter (of course! If you'd also like to add glitter, be sure to add plastic glitter vs. metal-based glitter as peroxide should not be used with metal glitter). Once I'd carefully swirled the ingredients together myself, I had S add the yeast through a funnel. I stayed within arm's reach to be sure that the bottle wasn't going to tip on her. I also used a short bottle with a wide base (this particular bottle was from a Hint drink) to increase the stability; however, any narrow necked bottle will work for this experiment - even an empty plastic water bottle. If you choose to let your child add the yeast, be sure you are close by ready to catch the bottle should it accidentally tip. :) As soon as you add the yeast, the reaction starts! The yeast acts as a catalyst and speeds up the hydrogen peroxide's release of oxygen gas --- when that gas hits the soap it makes a crazy fun amount of fluffy foam! Below you can see it already foaming up even though S is still adding the yeast!
Immediately remove your funnel and watch the crazy eruption of giant foam spill out of your bottle! The foam is totally safe to touch (and so soft and puffy!) - the peroxide (H2O2) is broken down in the reaction - so there isn't any left. It leaves behind water (H20) and oxygen (O2) only - so again, completely safe to handle.
It all happens quickly and is quite the sight!!! The reaction is exothermic, meaning that it gives off heat. You can have your child touch the bottle after the reaction has taken place and they can feel the warmth radiating out. S was so surprised!
Once the foam has stopped erupting, I removed the bottle and S played with some dragons and dinos in the foam.
After awhile we decided we needed to do it just ooooone more time and went with pink this time. It was still the coolest thing ever!!!
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To make your own Elephant's Toothpaste you will need:
Close adult supervision
Safety goggles for your child if they are going to be involved in any mixing/pouring
Dawn Dish Soap (Please do not use antibacterial versions of soap as Triclosan (what is added to make a soap antibacterial) should not be involved in this reaction)
Narrow-necked bottle (sized around 15 ounces)
*6% (20 volume) Hydrogen Peroxide is a bit of a specialty item - you will need to find a nearby Beauty Salon Supply shop (or click the link to purchase it on Amazon). The reaction will still work with 3% Hydrogen Peroxide (the kind you can buy at a drugstore or grocery), but it is much less dramatic.
Measure 1 teaspoon of yeast (half of one of those little pouches it comes in) into 2 Tablespoons of very warm water. Mix well.
Into your narrow-necked bottle, add 1/2 cup of 6% (20 volume) Hydrogen Peroxide (I recommend an adult does this step for safety), any coloring you would like (Colorations Liquid Watercolors or Food Coloring), glitter (if you'd like), and a few squirts of Dawn Dish Soap. Swirl it all carefully (this is another job I'd recommend an adult do for safety).
Place your bottle in a container to catch the mountain of foam (we used a glass baking dish), then add the yeast mixture through a funnel. Quickly remove the funnel and enjoy the show!
UPDATE: We did a family science demonstration with Elephant Toothpaste on a larger scale - The experiment below is to be performed by adults only and children should stand at a safe distance. Please follow all directions on the Hydrogen Peroxide bottle and exercise caution when handling as the concentration used will bleach clothes and can irritate/burn skin.
Adult Run Demonstration:
Take an empty 2 Liter Soda bottle and using caution add 1 cup of 40 Volume (12%) Hydrogen Peroxide using a funnel. Add a few squirts of Dawn Dish Soap. Swirl gently. Take one full packet of Dry Active Yeast and add it to 4 Tablespoons of very warm water. Stir well. Place 2 Liter bottle with Hydrogen Peroxide and Soap in a container and using a funnel add yeast mixture. Immediately remove funnel and step back and watch the show! The foam and bottle will be VERY warm - so please have an adult cautiously check the temperature before allowing children to play in the foam. As with the above experiment, the soap foam is soap foam - no peroxide is left - so it is safe to handle once it has cooled.
My awesome friend Jeanette at Artchoo created an elephant-sized toothbrush craft after seeing this. It's HILARIOUS. You can check out her Elephant Toothbrush here!
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All activities here are activities I feel are safe for my own children. As your child's parents/guardians, you will need to decide what you feel is safe for your family. I always encourage contacting your child's pediatrician for guidance if you are not sure about the safety/age appropriateness of an activity. All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision. Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies). Observe caution and safety at all times. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.