This candy experiment is one of my favorite experiments, that you can do with your kids at home and it’s a great way to learn about solubility. You can find the supporting handouts for this experiment at this link: Candy Experiment Printable
Using sugar and water to introduce solubility to kids
Before beginning your candy experiment you can start with sugar – a very essential ingredient to candy of course!
You can have your child put some sugar in a cup of warm water and stir, and then ask them what happens. And that’s a way to introduce solubility as a concept.
- Is some of that sugar disappearing?
- Is it soluble in water?
Introducing the scientific method to kids
The scientific method is very easy to practice with your kids when you are doing an experiment, or when you’re really having a conversation about anything that you’re seeing, whether you’re in the car or at home.
So one thing that’s really important that scientists ask when they are starting an experiment is …
Questions that you’re going to want to ask your kiddo before you start the actual experiment
- What will happen?
- What will happen when we add water?
- To the different candies?
- Let’s predict what do you think might happen?
- What might we observe?
- What will we see?
Now to prepare and get ready you are going to need a couple of different candies
Some things you might have lying around. You can also improvise with different foods.
The three that we like to use best here at Hands-On! to illustrate solubility are Skittles, M&M’s and gummy bears.
And the first thing that you’re going to do is dump the candies in the middle and then ask your kids to build the circle around the frame of your dish.
It doesn’t have to be a round dish. It can be a square dish. It can be a ceramic dish. A glass dish. While you will be supervising your kids choose the best type of age-appropriate dish to make sure they’re safe.
Start by placing the Skittles around the edge of the dish. You might want to get it started to give them an idea of what you’re doing and then have them finish laying out their pattern however they want to.
Then go on to the next one, the M&M’s, followed by and the gummy bears.
And then you are going to take some water, which I put in the microwave for about 40 seconds. You could just use tap water and not warm it up, and this experiment will still work. It does speed up the process if the water is a touch, a touch warmer. It does not need to be hot.
You then carefully pour the water in the middle of the plate very slowly until it reaches the edges of the plate where the candy is. We don’t want to flood it with too much water.
You’ll see with the Skittles, what is beginning to happen. If you have a look, you can see the amazing patterns that are starting to appear.
Not so much with the gummy bears and that will be a point of conversation.
It’s also fun to do a time-lapse video of this experiment and they can watch it back.
There are a lot of extensions to this activity so your kids could make even more discoveries
Another thing that you can do is get another empty plate or dish and have your kids create their own patterns.
Now that they have an idea of what might happen here, you can have your kids create their own patterns with the candy. For example, they might want to make a smiley face out of the M&M’s. Then once they have made their pattern you’re going to go ahead and add the water. Just like we did before.
So this is a fun way to extend this activity so your kid can have more control over the pattern that they’re making.
It’s also a fun way to learn about color.
You’re going to ask questions while this is happening …
- What are you observing?
- What do you see happening?
- Why do you think that some things are happening to the water where the M&M’s and the Skittles are, but there’s not much change in the gummy bears?
- I wonder why that is?
- What do you think?
- What are some of your thoughts on that?
- What’s going on with our smiley face pattern?
You don’t need to have the scientific answers
That’s not what this is about. This is about giving your child space and opportunity to explore on their own and come up with questions because, in science, the questions that we ask are just as important as the answers to those questions.
So this is again, a way for them to have more control and learn about the patterns that they can create with the different candies now.
You can use anything you have lying around the house for kids’ science including vinegar
Another extension for this activity is.you can use a muffin tin.
You can label the muffin tin with different substances – baking soda, sugar, corn starch, flour, marshmallow, whatever you might have in your cupboard. Then you’ll add water to see how does water behaves with these different substances.
Or take little cups or plastic containers. Clear is always better because they can make observations easier when the cups are clear.
You’ll add some more M&Ms, Skittles and gummy bears to your containers.
Go ahead and pour some vinegar in each of these cups with Skittles, M&Ms, and the gummy bears. Our kiddos can observe what is happening.
We now know how these candies behave in water. I’m wondering …
- How will they behave in vinegar?
- Will it be the same?
- Will it be different somehow?
I love to provide things to stir with
If you have a paintbrush, they can use the end of their paintbrush to stir, or they can choose not to stir and to just observe and see what happens. It’s also fun to come back over time and check the different dishes and look to see if there have been any changes. And you can start to see those changes over time.
Keep your kid’s candy experiment tidy and organized
Now, another way for your kids to go to town is if you have a tin like this at home, or it could be just a deeper dish. And this way you can put all of your different containers in here, and that will contain any mess that you have. It’s easy for cleanup.
You can also add things like baking soda to your kid’s experiment
Take some baking soda and put it in a container and then we might put this out in a tray.
This is called an “invitation” where we set these things up for our child and say, “Go experiment. Go explore at your pace. Have fun!” So here is some baking soda.
So you might want to say …
- What happens if I put the baking soda in these containers with the vinegar and the Skittles?
Then you can ask them ahead of time …
- What do you think will happen?
Or you can just let them go ahead and take their time and explore and then discuss it afterward. It’s really up to you and up to what works best for your kid.
- So what’s happening? It’s a chemical reaction. Oh my goodness!
- Now, did that happen?
- When I added the water?
They will see what’s happening when you add the water to the Skittles the first time, but they’ll want to check that. They’ll want to make sure. So you’re going to take some more Skittles and put it in a container, take the water and pour it in. Then put the baking soda in just like you did previously. Watch what happens.
- What happened? Nothing happened. I see changes happening with the water, but I don’t see those same fizzy bubbles that I saw before.
- I wonder why that is?
Try the baking soda again, putting it in the container that has the gummy bears and the vinegar.
- Oh my goodness. And it’s spilling over.
This is why we have our experiment tray, as I like to call it, to catch any of the mess. Then we don’t have to worry, and our kids can have all the fun that they want without us worrying about the cleanup.
So once you do this, you can go back and say …
- What do these candies look like? Now they can put their fingers in there. This is totally safe. Or they can use a spoon. Oh my goodness.
- What happened to the Skittles?
- Where did the color go? Maybe it went into the, into the vinegar.
Now you can also go back and look at the Skittles that were in the water.
- I’m starting to see some changes here. I wonder, I wonder what that’s about?
Printable handouts for your kid’s candy experiments
My printable experiment sheets are a really fun way to keep track of your observations for the little kids. They can draw a picture of the circle of colors that they see. For the older ones, they can take this to another level and really do the same patterns that they see on the plate.
And we have a box for the M&M’s, the Skittles and the gummy bears.
Here’s a link to the sheet just for the Skittles, where they can color what they see in the plate before the water is added. They can use it to write up what they think is going to happen. Then go ahead with their experiment, pour in the water, and write the answer to, “What did you observe?”
Print your handout from this link:
Now, if your child is not writing yet or if it’s too much work and it’s stressful for your child to write, we want to keep it fun. You can have them dictate their observations and predictions to you and you can write these down for them. And then you can all read it back later.
You can also create a kid’s science journal with my handouts
It’s great fun for kids to go back and look at and to repeat experiments and for you to create your own extensions for those experiments.