Children love to watch things bubble, change color, and switch states of matter.
My children could watch baking soda and vinegar mix and explode any day. But while baking soda volcanos might never get old, there are many ways to play with chemistry, and the ingredients needed are right in your pantry.
My family has found a great place to play with chemistry is in the kitchen.
Cooking is one of our go-to activities when we’re seeking a science project. It offers countless opportunities for children to engage in learning- reading, math, science. Cooking together also asks us to practice collaboration, which among siblings I like to encourage. One child reads while one gathers ingredients; one child measures, one stirs, and the other pours. Reverse, so everyone gets a turn.
As long as there is something great to eat at the end, my kids are usually pretty excited. They want to create AND work together.
Recently, we pulled out our science activity books and they zeroed in on an experiment for meringue cookies. Hating to throw the yolks away, I looked for experiments with just yolks. What popped up first? Mayonnaise, of course.
What follows is a fun hour in the kitchen with your children. You most likely have all the ingredients on hand. Pull up a couple of chairs, get out your beaters, and you’re ready to create edible chemistry!
Kitchen Chemistry- Meringue Cookies & Mayo
(probably best eaten separately)
Ingredients For Meringue: 2 egg whites, 3/4 c sugar, one tsp cream of tartar.
Optional ingredients– a handful of chocolate chips, food coloring (we use India Tree), flavoring (mint, almond).
Tools– 1 bowl, beaters, parchment lined cookie sheet, spatula, two spoons.
Ingredients For Mayo: 2 egg yolks, two tsp of lemon juice, 1/2 TB of vinegar, 1 c oil (I used olive oil. Safflower or corn work too), 1/2 tsp salt, one tsp dijon mustard.
Tools– immersion blender (you could do this with another type of beaters/blender, but you won’t see emulsion as well), two bowls or one bowl and a large measuring cup, whisk.
Tips: If you use an immersion blender, a large measuring cup is nice because it keeps the splatter down and your child can see the egg emulsify the oil/acid.
**Teach your child/children how to separate an egg if they don’t already know how. Have extra eggs on hand. Put yolks in one bowl and whites in another.
All the rest of the steps assume a child is leading with adult assistance if needed.
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
2. Pour 1 cup of oil into either a large measuring cup or an empty bowl.
3. Add 2tsp of lemon juice and 1 TB of vinegar to the oil.
- What is happening? What is the vinegar doing? Why do you think they look the way they do?
4. Whisk up oil and acids (vinegar and lemon juice).
- Now, what has happened? How come? Let the liquid rest, but keep your eye on them. See if they change?
5. Use an electric mixer to mix your egg whites.
- Watch what happens? Why do you think they foaming? Head here if you want to know.
6. Add the tsp of cream of tartar and slowly continue to beat while slowly adding the sugar. You want to stop when the meringue forms mountain peaks that don’t fall.
7. Using your spatula, fold (lightly stir) in your optional ingredients. Just a drop or two of flavoring is needed. Add food coloring until you get your desired result. You could also divide the mixture if you wanted two colors. Don’t forget chocolate chips- a handful or two and a couple to try.
8. Using two spoons, plop a large spoonful of meringue onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Try to keep them in blobs and try not to let them touch.
9. TURN OFF THE OVEN. These are cookies that can be forgotten.
10. Put cookies in the oven and allow them to “cook” for at least four hours. Overnight works too.
11. Go back to your oil and acids.
- What has happened? How come? Click here for answers.
12. Add your egg yolks to the oil/acid mixture. If you’re using an immersion blender, add yolks to the measuring cup so you can see clearly how the ingredients begin to mix. If you’re using another type of blender, mix ingredients how it makes sense to do so.
13. Turn on mixer and watch what happens.
- What about the egg yolk lets oil/acid mix? Head back to here to read about why egg yolks create this emulsion.
14. Stir in 1 tsp of dijon and 1/2 tsp of salt.
Mayonnaise and meringue might be the perfect foods to make at the same time. Their simple ingredients and easy to follow recipes allow for children of any age to participate in the magic of edible chemistry.
TIP- Licking the beaters adds extra joy!