If you’ve always wanted to make elephant toothpaste at home along with your kids, or were curious as to what reaction goes on behind the scenes, then this article will help you a ton.
Elephant Toothpaste is a bubbly science experiment for kids that will leave your children (and you!) spellbound and build their interest in STEM.
This easy science experiment for kids gets its name from the thick foam that it produces from the fun chemical reaction.
The foam produced is big and fluffy enough to resemble a toothpaste being squeezed out of the tube, but only fit enough for an elephant!
Why is Elephant Toothpaste a Fun Science Experiment?
Rockets, explosions, foam and eruptions work like magnets in science. They are great at attracting kids to try them out and learn more about it.
Elephant toothpaste has all these magnets combined – Eruption, Foam and Rocket like action – that make this experiment exciting, fun and eye catching!
If you are a parent, you might want to think twice about where you want to set this up, and what safety precautions you need to take, because this chemical reaction creates quite a lot of foam and can get messy!
Related: Learn how you can set-up a science lab at home for your kids. It is far easier than you think!
But that should not discourage your kids from doing this, because this fun and easy science project for kids involves a lot of chemistry, biology, and other scientific concepts that can definitely be beneficial for your children!
As long as you follow the right procedure and take the necessary precautions, which are mentioned, you can make this experiment an enjoyable and hands-on learning experience for kids!
Related: Also try Making Fake Snow at Home. It is soo much fun to make and an excellent sensorial tool.
Elephant Toothpaste Recipe
Elephant Toothpaste is a fun and an extremely easy science experiment to do at home. It is quick but does require a prior preparation, as some of the materials required for the experiment might not be already available in your pantry.
Elephant Toothpaste Materials:
1. Empty plastic bottle or clear container
2. 15 – 20 ml or 3 tbsp of warm water
3. 1 packet of dry yeast
4. Liquid dish soap
5. Hydrogen Peroxide – 6% concentrated hydrogen peroxide works best and can be found in beauty supply stores. You can also use the commonly available 3% concentrated solution found in pharmacies as well, but the reaction will be slower and less dramatic.
6. Food coloring
8. Safety glasses
10. Measuring Cup
How to Make Elephant Toothpaste at Home
Step 1: Put on your gloves and safety glasses.
Step 2: Pour half a cup of Hydrogen Peroxide into the empty bottle.
Step 3: Add a few drops of your favorite food coloring into the bottle.
Step 4: Add a squirt of dish soap (or 1 tbsp) into the container and mix gently.
Step 5: In a separate bowl/ cup, mix the warm water and yeast. Let the mixture rest for about 30 seconds to activate the yeast.
Step 6: Finally, add the yeast mixture to the container of hydrogen peroxide using a funnel. That should kickstart the reaction!
Related: While your kids treat their eyes to with this activity, don’t forget to strengthen their hands and motor skills with this Easy Homemade Moon Sand. It is perfect for molding and creative play!
Safety Guidelines For Elephant Toothpaste Experiment
Can You Touch Elephant Toothpaste?
While the foam produced is just water, soap and oxygen, it is still warm as this reaction is exothermic in nature.
Hydrogen Peroxide, on the other hand, can cause skin and eye irritation when it comes to contact, so reinforce good safety practices and educate your kids about the importance of it as well.
So, while ideally the foam is safe to touch after a while when it has cooled, we would still recommend caution in case hydrogen peroxide has not completely decomposed.
Make sure your children and anyone else handling the chemicals in the experiment are wearing safety glasses and gloves.
Related: If your kids love touching foam, try these Baking Soda & Vinegar Experiments, which make absolutely safe to touch foam.
Can You Make Elephant Toothpaste Indoors?
Yes! The elephant toothpaste experiment discussed above is safe enough to do indoors.
However, you would need a a tub or tray to collect the foam produced by the experiment. Or you can do it outdoors.
The foam from elephant toothpaste will spill over your work desk or overflow the container, if you are doing the experiment indoors.
Hence, it is suggested to choose the place wisely as you would want to make sure cleaning doesn’t become a difficult job after concluding the experiment.
Related: Looking for fun Indoor activities? Here are more than 80 Best Indoor Activities for Kids to keep them happy and entertained at home.
How to Get the Stripe Effect?
A small tweak is all that is required to get the stripe effect similar to that of the toothpaste. All you need to do is to add a few drops of food coloring along the surface of the container.
This will form colored stripes on the foam created in the experiment, giving it a really cool effect!
Science Behind Elephant Toothpaste
There is a lot of science concepts that you can choose to discuss with your kids. They are going to be all ears to learn the science behind this amazing foaming chemical reaction that they just witnessed.
1. The Purpose of Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen Peroxide has the formula (H2O2) and is used to disinfect areas on the skin, and even as a bleaching agent in beauty products.
When exposed to the external environment, hydrogen peroxide breaks down to water and Oxygen gas naturally.
2H2O2 —> 2H2O + O2
The natural process is very slow, but can be sped up by using certain substances and conditions, like catalysts, higher temperature, UV rays, etc.
Get your kids to guess what the secret ingredient was in the elephant toothpaste experiment that sped up the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide into hydrogen atoms and oxygen atoms.
Related: Got a science buff? Amuse them with these Silly Science Jokes for Kids.
2. Function of Yeast
Yeast is the secret ingredient! Yeast acted as a catalyst in the experiment that sped up the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. Yeast contains a special chemical called catalase that helps break down hydrogen peroxide.
We mix yeast with warm water to activate the yeast. When activated, the catalase in yeast helped in quickly breaking the oxygen atoms apart from the hydrogen peroxide molecule.
Fun Fact: Catalysts are also found inside our bodies! Enzymes are biological catalysts, and help animals digest food faster. Without enzymes, digestion of food would take days instead of hours! Get your students to find out different types of catalysts/enzymes found in our body.
Amazed with this fun fact? Check out more weird but true fun facts for kids.
3. Why Dish Soap?
The purpose of liquid dish soap is pretty straightforward. The texture of the form created is largely due to the dishwash liquid.
The oxygen bubbles released from decomposition of hydrogen peroxide combine with water and soap in the container to create soapy foam that ejects just like toothpaste out of a tube.
In the absence of soap, the bubbles would escape from the liquid and quickly pop. Soap provides the necessary surface tension to the liquid, thus helping the oxygen bubbles to get trapped in the liquid and creating thick foam.
Now that you have understood what dish soap does, can you guess what will happen if you omit dish soap?
Well! The reaction will still make bubbles but not foam as there is nothing to trap the bubbles!
4. Why is the Elephant Toothpaste warm?
The decomposition of hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen is an exothermic reaction. Exothermic reactions give off heat, which is why the foam produced is warm.
Q&A Time for Kids
Here are some fruitful discussions you should have with students to engage them in learning science.
Ask your kids to mull over these questions and come up with their answers and reasoning. This is a great way to teach science and build critical thinking.
What Would Happen if 3% Hydrogen Peroxide is Used?
Concentration plays a major role in the speed of a reaction. Higher the concentration, faster is the reaction.
When you use 6% hydrogen peroxide solution, you should see that the toothpaste foam forms almost immediately and much faster compared to when using 3% H2O2.
Where else is Yeast Used As a Catalyst?
Yeast is a popular catalyst and used in baking, production of alcohol (fermentation), and other industries.
Why is Hydrogen Peroxide Stored in Dark Colored Bottles?
Ask your kids why they think Hydrogen Peroxide bottles are dark colored. Is it just by chance or is there some science behind it?
Hydrogen Peroxide decomposes naturally when exposed to light. The UV rays from the Sun act as catalyst and speed up its decomposition process.
Storing them in dark bottles helps slow down this decomposition, which in turn increases the lifetime of Hydrogen Peroxide.
The elephant toothpaste experiment is one of the coolest experiments to try at home. Understand the scientific concepts behind the experiment so that you can help your kids grasp the science while enjoying the activity.
Make sure your kids follow the essential safety practices and realize the importance of safety in science from a young age!