Magic boredom busters in the kitchen

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Kitchen Table Talk

The endless rain has made us all restless. If you have been entertaining children or grandchildren, restless won’t even begin to cover it.


My bag of tricks for entertaining children had gotten a little stale until my son in Nashville and 5-year-old grandson, King, showed me their latest science project. One of King’s Christmas gifts from his Aunt Keela was a monthly “fun” box with a science-related activity to do with your parents. Trey got dibs on the latest one (Nashville’s had a lot of rain, too!), and he and King made a paper mache moon.

The project sent me down memory lane to the kitchen science experiments we did when my own children were young and before the built-in entertainment of YouTube videos and electronic games. Sometimes I called them “magic tricks.” Sometimes I actually, with the help of my husband, talked about the real science behind the “trick.” Which one I chose normally related to the age of my audience.

I remembered a few tried and true ones and researched others. With this crazy weather and Spring Break coming up, it seemed a good time to share.

Don’t forget the most important thing about these activities: Audience participation. Even if the trick is “magic” and therefore able to keep the preschoolers interested, hand over the magic wand and let the child do the experiment the second time. Then put on a show for mom and dad.

1.  Invisible ink

My mother loved this one. The grape juice we used was made from concentrate in those little frozen paper cans, but I tried it again with pre-mixed grape juice, and it still works, though not as well.

On a blank sheet of paper, write with a ball point pen: An Important Message is Below. This is just so the paper isn’t completely blank.

Make your ink out of baking soda and water with a 1 to 1 ratio. Write or draw using the “ink” with a cotton swab or your finger.

Let the paper dry.

Once dry, paint the whole sheet with grape juice. The secret message will be revealed.

(You can also hold the paper over a light bulb and skip the grape juice, but today’s light bulbs may not generate enough heat!)

2. Rock Candy

Another from my own childhood is making sugar crystal candy. This one takes several days, but you get to eat the results. The directions call for the string to be weighted, usually with a paper clip. Mother used a Lifesaver, which was also edible. Some good directions are found here: https://www.thespruceeats.com/rock-candy-521016

3. Hopping Corn

Yes, that’s “hop,” not pop, although you use popping corn.

Fill a clear glass jar with water and add a couple of drops of yellow or green food coloring. Measure 6 tablespoons of white vinegar into a separate container.

Add 2 tablespoons of baking soda to the water, and stir until it is all dissolved.

Add a handful of popping corn.

Then, with an abracadabra, add the vinegar.

The corn will dance and hop around for at least 30 minutes.

4. Scaredy-Cat Pepper

This one is super simple. Get a bowl of water and cover the surface with pepper. Put a drop of dishwashing soap on your finger. Touch your finger to the middle of the bowl and watch the pepper “Run away.”

An internet search on “simple kitchen science for kids” will fill your kitchen science playlist in a flash. Make each activity a grand production and, if you’re a Gigi or Granddaddy, repeat performances for mom and dad with the child as the star of the show will further increase the fun.

And yes, I left out the lava-flowing volcano. Leave that one for the kids who have hit double-digits, or you will find yourself doing all the prep work while they go back to their video games until time for the lava to flow!

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