Christmas Science Experiments – Melt An Indoor Snowman
Welcome to the Melting Snowman Science Experiment.
The Christmas holidays are a wonderful time for families and children.
It’s my favorite time of the year and one where I look forward to taking some quality time away from the office, visit family and spend as much time as possible with my children.
There is plenty of time to catch up with family and friends as well as indulging in our favorite foods and tasty treats.
Keep Them Interested!
Of course, there is a downside to all of these festivities. Adults and children are taken out of their daily routines and interactions. It’s not uncommon for children to become a little frustrated and bored over the holidays.
I find that reaching into the experiment archives and engaging in Christmas science experiments, is a great way to re-energize children. Using a Christmas theme for these experiments helps to get them motivated and maintain interest.
Our Christmas experiment will be centered around helping one of our favorite winter icons, to get out of the cold and indulge in some science experimentation indoors.
Sounds a bit crazy I know but we will build an indoor snowman or two and then investigate how scientific reactions can help our snowman melt without altering the temperature.
Of course, everything is not exactly as it seems but it will help us to explain a very important scientific reaction.
Chemical Compounds – What Are They?
Early scientists divided chemical compounds into three specific categories
In this snowman experiment, we are going to perform an activity that is fun, creative and provides a learning opportunity to see and understand the reaction of Bases and Acids as they are combined.
There are a number of theories which provide alternative concepts around the mechanics behind these base – acid reactions, but for the purpose of simplicity, we will concentrate on the physical experimentation and simple explanation of the reactions.
What Do We Need To Make An Indoor Snowman? – Melting Snowman Recipe
The measurements below are enough to make a good size single snowman or two smaller snowmen. You can obviously scale up the amounts if you decide to make a whole family of them.
- 470ml (2 Cups or 1 pint) of baking soda
- 2 tablespoons of salt
- Squirt of clear hand soap or white shaving foam
- 4 tablespoons of water
- Mixing bowl
- Felt disks for buttons and eyes
- Orange small triangle of felt for nose
- Pipe cleaners for arms
- Bottle of white vinegar
- Baking Tray or Pyrex dish for standing the snowmen in
Let’s Make Indoor Snowman
Empty the baking soda into the mixing bowl and add the salt. Give the mixture a good stir with the spoon so that the baking soda and salt are combined.
Add a couple of squirts of clear hand soap or white shaving foam to the mixture and mix again with the spoon. You will notice that the small balls white balls start to form on the surface of the mixture. This is the consistency we are looking for at this stage.
Add a little water to the mixture and continue to stir. The powder will start to thicken and bind together, as you add a little water at a time. We want the mixture to be the consistency or fresh snow. It should be a little firm and not too wet.
I have performed this experiment using the shaving cream and the soap separately. The end results will be exactly the same but the shaving foam adds a fresher smell and a slightly creamier texture to the snow.
The choice is yours.
Building A Snowman
Everyone has their own ideas as to how a snowman should look, so this is the time for the children to get creative and make a snowman to be proud of.
The snow can be formed into balls, just as you would with real snow, The good news, however, is that this time your hands will stay nice and warm.
Form the snowman using either one or two balls of snow for the body and a smaller one for the head. You can use small felt buttons for the eyes and a small piece of orange felt, cut into a triangle for the nose. Felt buttons also look great on the body to make realistic looking buttons. We used pipe cleaners for the arms, as they can be manipulated to form different hand positions. You could also use small twigs from the garden as an alternative.
There is a lot of fun and interaction to be had in creating a snowman so take your time and enjoy the experience with your children. You could also make double the mixture and have a snowman creation competition.
The great thing about this snow is that it will not melt at room temperature so you could also display your snowman for as long as you like.
The indoor snow will last quite some time at room temperature, so in order for the children to see a melting snowman, we will need something to help him on his way. This is where the white vinegar comes in.
Ensure that the snowman is in the middle of the baking tray and that the sides of the baking try are high enough to retain the vinegar, once it has been poured.
Slowly pour the white vinegar over the snowman the top of the snowman. What happens?
What Happened To Our Snowman?
Once the vinegar comes into contact with the snowman, you will see that the snow starts to foam and run down the body of the snowman, creating an accelerated melting process. As you pour more vinegar, the snow will continue to melt until our snowman is just a white puddle. The melting process will continue until there is no more active ingredient in the baking soda to react with the vinegar.
It’s rather like teleporting a real snowman to the Sahara Desert!
Dual Chemical Reactions
The melting of the snowman is, in fact, two chemical reactions happening very quickly, in front of your eyes.
The first reaction is caused by a base compound, in this case, Baking Soda (Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate), combining with the Acetic Acid in the white vinegar. Vinegar is a solution consisting of acetic acid (5%) and water (95%).
Acids want to give away Hydrogen atoms that are positively charged. Base compounds, on the other hand, are opposite and are ready to grab hold of available Hydrogen atoms. This swapping of atoms is able to take place due to the high energy available when bringing acid and base compounds together.
The first reaction between the baking soda and the Acetic Acid produces sodium acetate and water.
Water is sometimes added to base compounds and acids to calm down the intensity of this exchange.
Water is a solution that will act as a host to allow for the break up of the base and the acid in this reaction. In water, baking soda breaks apart into a positively-charged sodium ion and a negatively charged bicarbonate ion.
Acetic acid doesn’t break apart on its own in water as much as sodium bicarbonate; it’s mostly diluted so it’s not as strong.
When we mix baking soda and acetic acid in water together, acetic acid gives its proton to the broken-apart baking soda and together they form sodium acetate (CH3COONa), water (H2O), and carbon dioxide (CO2).
These products are created quickly, and the carbon dioxide is decomposed into a gas.
This decomposition reaction and resulting carbon dioxide gases, produce the visible bubbles and foaming during the melting of the snowman.
Fun With Themed Experiments
Participating in simple and engaging science experiments is a fantastic way to spend quality time with your children. Creating the snow and the building of the snowman is a real winner with kids and gives grown-ups the opportunity to get hands-on time with their children.
Seasonally themed experiments can really help to focus the mind and increase the enjoyment of the interaction.
I really hope that you enjoy this experiment.
If you have any suggestions, feedback or questions, I would be more than happy to take the time to reply to your comments.