Exploring the World with Science: A pH Experiment

Education is the most important tool we can use to change the world around us. In today’s world, science plays a huge part in the future of the world. The sad part is that not all schools promote science in early education. That is why parents should help to bridge the gap and educate our children on the vast world of science. Young children learn by hands-on activities and by naturally exploring their world. Experimentation can help foster their learning. Below is a simple pH experiment to help get things rolling.

Previously, we discussed the Scientific Method, what it is, and why it is important to learning.

  • Purpose – What is it you want to learn about?
  • Hypotheses – What do you think will happen?
  • Procedure – How will you arrive at your results?
  • Results – What actually happened?
  • Conclusion – Were your hypotheses correct?

Experiment Time

pH is used to determine the level of hydrogen ions in a solution. This helps one determine whether a substance is acidic or basic. Almost all liquids fall somewhere along the pH scale. The scale ranges from 0- most acidic to 14- most basic. We interact with many different acids and bases everyday. This experiment will help measure the pH levels of household chemicals.

Before we begin, have your child create their own pH scale. Draw a straight line horizontally across a paper. Add numbers 0-14. Mark 7 as neutral. 0-7 should be marked as acids. 7-14 will be marked as bases. Next, help your child color the acids and bases as follows:


Wait, hold up, what does that mean?

Definitions:

  • Hydrogen ions: hydrogen atoms with a positive charge
  • Solution: liquid mixture
  • Acid: chemicals that measure from 0-7 on the pH scale
  • Base: chemicals that measure from 7-14 on the pH scale
  • Neutral: pH of 7 (distilled water)
  • Control: a solution that is left unchanged, so you can compare the results

Don’t worry, there are a few YouTube videos that can further explain to your child (and you!) about acids and bases.


Supplies

  • Purple cabbage (a natural pH indicator) boiled, only liquid kept
  • Glass jars
  • Household substances: lemon juice, baking soda, white vinegar (adult use only!), wine (for the experiment or for you, it’s gotta be 5 o’clock somewhere!), milk, laundry detergent, hand sanitizer, shampoo
  • Paper and coloring supplies

Disclaimer: When working with chemicals, practice science safety: wear gloves, goggles, pull long hair back, and only let adults use harsh chemicals.

 Scientific Method

Purpose: To determine which household chemicals are acids and bases.

Hypotheses: Probe your child by asking them which substances will produce acids and which will be bases. “I think ____ will be an acid and ____ will be a base.”

Procedure:

Adult Only: Boil the purple cabbage in distilled water until the liquid turns purple. Discard the leaves and save the liquid.

  1. Pour the cabbage juice into glass containers.
  2. Label each container according to what will be added.
  3. Create a control – a glass with only cabbage juice to compare the others.
  4. Carefully add substances to the cabbage juice.
  5. Observe and record color changes.
  6. Arrange according to pH scale.

Results:

Have your child draw the jars, label them, then color in what color each changed.

Conclusion:

Did the results support your hypotheses? Ask your child probing questions: Why do you think X was a base and Y was an acid? Why do you think there are a variety of acids and bases in the environment?

Do you want to try another another fun experiment with your child? Check out our article Exploring the World with Science.

Photo Credit: Ashley Wells

Sources: Ducksters.com, Stanford

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Ashley Wells

Ashley lives in North Carolina, with her husband, 4 year old little girl and infant son. She has dreamed of being a SAHM since she was a little girl and now enjoys living out this dream by making everyday adventures with her two tiny sidekicks. She loves yoga, fitness, dark chocolate, and wine. She's an organizer of playdates, preschool happenings, and girls night outs. She's an encourager of making messes, finding passions, and dreaming the impossible.

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