February is National Children’s Dental month and we’ve been having all kinds of fun learning how animals have different types of teeth! To extend our study into science, we created elephant toothpaste…
We began our study of animal teeth by reading our Scholastic Weekly Reader. The front cover of the Weekly Reader gave us a close up view of four different types of animal teeth. The children had fun trying to identify what type of animal each set of teeth came from. When we opened our Weekly Readers, we discovered the source of each set of animal teeth. The children were particularly interested in the elephant tusks. We talked about how big an elephant’s toothbrush might be and how much toothpaste you might need for that big of a toothbrush. Following our discussion of animal teeth, I asked the children if they were interested in making “elephant toothpaste.” The responses ranged from, “Elephant toothpaste?!” to “Eww, gross! What’s that?” Boy, were they in for a surprise…
Doing experiments with preschool aged children can be challenging. However, I’ve learned a few things that can make the process easier and less stressful. First, doing experiments with children in a small group is much easier than with a large group. If you find yourself avoiding experiments due to class size, you may think about dividing your class into smaller groups. Secondly, preparation is key. Do your research so that you can be prepared for the unexpected. Have as many of the components of the experiment prepared ahead of time to make the process as simple as possible for the children. Lastly, be sure to take your time walking the children through the process step by step. Elephant toothpaste is a relatively quick experiment, but by taking our time with each step, the children can better understand and enjoy the experiment….
Prior to introducing elephant toothpaste to our students, I did some research on my own. I wanted to be absolutely sure that this experiment could be recreated by preschoolers. First, I watched a an elephant toothpaste video by Science Bob. Then I attempted the experiment on my own at home. The one thing that I discovered on my own is that a less concentrated form of hydrogen peroxide produces a grand result and more safe for children to explore on their own.
If you would like to try to make your own elephant toothpaste, you will need these items for each child:
- 16 oz. plastic water bottle
- 1 tablespoon or one envelope yeast
- 3 tablespoons warm water
- 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
- 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide (we used 3% for safety purposes)
- tray or pan for overflow
You can prepare a few of the components ahead of time….
- Pour a 1/2 cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide into each of your plastic water bottles and set aside.
- Fill small cups with 3 tablespoons warm water.
- Also, pour 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap into individual cups.
Prepare your table for the experiment by setting out materials for each child. Each of our students got goggles, a tub for overflow, a packet of yeast, scissors, a spoon, and 1 tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap. When the children were seated with their goggles on, I gave them each one of the small cups that I had filled with warm water. I then asked them to cut open their packets of yeast and pour the yeast into their warm water…
The children then stirred the yeast with their spoon for about 30 seconds…
Once the yeast and water were mixed well, I asked the children to set their cups aside. Next, I distributed the plastic water bottles that we had previously filled with the 3% hydrogen peroxide. The children placed their bottles in the middle of their tubs. We then poured the 1 tablespoon of liquid dishsoap into our bottle of peroxide…
The children swirled the dish soap and peroxide gently to mix the two ingredients together. Finally, we were ready to add the warm water and yeast mixture to our plastic bottles…
The mixture began to grow before our eyes! The yeast and water were reacting with the soapy peroxide, creating a fast growing foam. The children were soon surprised when their bottles were overflowing with elephant toothpaste…
Once our bottles overflowed and the experiment was over, we allowed the children to play in their newly created elephant toothpaste. We were comfortable letting them explore the mixture with their hands because we used the 3% hydrogen peroxide, which is a less concentrated formula than what many recipes call for but we still stayed around to monitor the play. The children loved feeling the foamy “toothpaste.” Many tried to scoop it up and pour it back in their bottles. When they squeezed their bottles, it would come pouring out again…
The children loved creating elephant toothpaste. This was a super fun experiment that was made successful with just a little bit of research and planning. I encourage you to give science experiments a try either at home or in your classroom. Your children will love getting their hands messy and it will be an experience they won’t soon forget…
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Links to grow on:
Toothbrush water play in preschool by Teach Preschool
Tot school: dental health by The Preschool Experiment
Our pearly whites by Preschool Playbook