A Fizzing Good Tea Party: Color & Chemistry Experiments Disguised as Play

tea party
Last week, the kids and I had so much fun making volcanoes in the kitchen, that yesterday when 4 year old Luke decided he was going to work on a 196-piece Lego kit rated for ages 7-12, I knew 3 year old Lilah would want need something fun to do, and it would have to really occupy her to keep her from bugging Luke while he concentrated on building.  So, I told her we would have the most fun she’s ever had before…and I came up with this: A Fizzing Good Tea Party!
tea party kids preschool science fun outdoors activity free thrifty easy experiment play girls colors learning teacher parent

In reality, it’s a little bit tea party, a little bit chemistry experiment, a little bit color mixing, a little bit potions-making 101, a lot of fine motor practice, and a huge dose of fun!  While I think both boys and girls would LOVE this activity, I do think it would be especially good for getting girls interested in SCIENCE!

Before we began, we gathered lots of different containers and put them on a tray, along with a variety of spoons and a few syringes.  I also gathered up a cup or two of white vinegar, roughly the same amount of water, some food coloring, and about a half cup of baking soda.  We took all our supplies outside to a picnic table in the shade.  There, I randomly filled about half the containers with vinegar and the other half with water.

I let Lilah tell me what color to make each one, and squeezed a drop of food coloring into each, while she stirred them up with a spoon.


When we had bunches of pretty colored liquids in front of us,

I showed her how to scoop a little spoon of baking soda powder into the cups.

Some cups didn’t really do anything (the cups filled with water), but others made lots of colored, fizzy bubbles (the cups filled with vinegar)!  I talked to her about how to tell which cups were filled with water and which were filled with vinegar based on the reaction they made…or didn’t make.

baking soda volcano vinegar water food coloring colored water fun

After we’d done a few, I started encouraging her to guess (predict) what the liquid was before dropping in the baking soda.  I also asked her after she mixed in the baking soda if the liquid was water or vinegar and how she knew!  This part of the activity went on for quite some time!  Luke and Dad came out to get in on the action for awhile!!  L&L even experimented with adding more vinegar to various cups to see what would happen.

After the excitement over the mini, colored-volcanoes we were creating died down, I scooped some baking soda onto a little plate.  I showed the kids how to squeeze a syringe in the vinegar cup and then squeeze the vinegar onto the plate.  This was GREAT for some fine motor practice because they were SO motivated to learn how to do the syringes in order to make more bubbles!!


Once most of the baking soda was used up, Luke went back inside to his Lego creation, and Lilah got down to the business of mixing colors…er, I mean, making me coffee…and tea…and even chocolate tea!  At first, she started by spooning liquid from cup to cup; then she used a syringe, and it ended up with her pouring the liquids from cup to cup.

I guided a bit in the beginning when the colors were all still separate to have her mix colors like red and blue to make purple, and yellow and blue to make green.  Of course, before long, everything was a gorgeous shade of muddy green, but it just added to the whole “coffee and tea” pretend play aspect.

Lilah happily played and spooned and mixed and squeezed and poured for about an hour.  When she was done, she stacked all the dishes neatly on the tray.  I remarked that she had certainly gotten a lot of dishes dirty and asked her if she wanted to wash them.  She happily agreed.  Play in a sink full of water with bubbles?  Sure, Mom!  We pulled the learning tower over to the sink, filled it up with warm sudsy water, and baby girl “washed dishes” for probably another 20 minutes.

If you do this activity with your child, here is a list of vocabulary words you might mention while doing it:

  • wet vs. dry
  • solid – liquid – gas
  • chemical reaction
  • reaction vs. no reaction
  • predicting
  • hypothesis
  • observe / observation
While this may not have been the most fun she’s ever had before, I do think this ranked pretty high up there!!  Lilah smiled and laughed and concentrated the whole time.  It was pretend play, science, fine motor practice, color mixing, and excitement all rolled into one.  And Luke was able to finish over half of his Lego kit…uninterrupted by a 3 year old wanting his attention because she was too busy having her own fun!  I actually really enjoyed this project a lot myself, and after all the chemical reactions were complete, I pulled a chair over into the shade beside the picnic table, and watched my little girl play while enjoying one of the last days of summer.  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon if I do say so myself. 🙂
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Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!

  • Lauren says:

    Very cool. Our girls have been wanting to play with baking soda and vinegar for a while, and adding colour makes it so much more fun!

  • Cassie says:

    Okay I HAVE to do this with my girls This looks like so much fun!

  • This is great. I might do this today with my girls today if it’s nice out.

  • This looks so fun and what a great way to get in some scientific learning. Just pinned!

  • Shereen says:

    Tried this today with my 3 year old son. He loved it! I was surprised how quickly he picked up the concept of the reaction/non-reaction of the vinegar vs. water.

  • My toddler loves it when we mix vinegar and baking soda. I love how you explain the activity and the concepts learned through the activity.

  • Tawnee says:

    Fun…thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to try.

  • Carolyn says:

    I know my son would love this! Great idea!

  • Victoria says:

    I saw this the other day when it was shared by another DenSchool mom. I thought you did this with the bubble mix though. I didn’t realize you were taking a little idea from the volcano experiment. Very clever! Good job thinking outside of the box 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I love everything except the list of vocabulary. I would use some much simpler words so that the child might retain them

    • I don’t believe in “dumbing down” vocabulary for kids. Yes, I explain it and model it in simple terms, but I teach them the big, real words, too. I even get them to try to say the words and we have fun learning them.

      Just today at lunch I heard my 4 year old say out of the blue, “Hey, I can see my reflection in my glass.” His vocabulary includes some pretty big words and I think a lot of it is because his dad and I don’t shy away from using big words with him. He’s also really good at explaining what words mean. Kids’ brains are truly amazing! Try it and see. Even if they don’t “retain” the word in the sense that they can explain what it means, it gives them a connection for the next time they hear the word which will make learning easier for them. 🙂

  • I have been visiting your site for quite some time and love everything you post (Amen to the reply about vocabulary as well! New words are new words to kids, they might as well learn the “real” ones!) I don’t know if you participate in linky parties, but I am hosting a STEM themed one, in which I would LOVE for you to participate. I hold them the first and third Sat of each month. Would love you to join! I particularly like this one “Chemistry disguised as Play,” but you have tons of other posts that would fit the bill as well! Thanks for your hard work! 🙂

    Darci the STEM Mom

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  • Kara says:

    I’m so glad I came across this post a couple of weeks ago! My 3 year old has asked to do it almost every day since we tried it the first time! I adjusted it a little by using a cookie sheet (and now a roasting pan) to put the “cups” on so we can do this inside. When she finishes with the baking soda, I let her pour the “tea” into the other cups. So much fun! Thank you for posting it! (This is the best kind of school for preschoolers!!)

  • Amy Stadler says:

    I love this! My kids love science! We will be doing this soon! Thanks so much! Also totally agree with the use of big words. I speak normally to my children, who are 3 & 5. I always have. My oldest is starting kindergarten and he can tell you he wants to be a paleontologist, and what it means. They use works like exquisite, metamorphosis, chrysalis. And yes, they know what they mean. They may not have remembered every one the first time, but they do learn quickly!

  • Meri Shores says:

    *There are certainly a lot of details like that to take into consideration. That is a great point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where the most important thing will be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both boys and girls feel the impact of just a moment’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

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