Let’s blow things up!! Okay, maybe it’s just a small explosion, but it’s an explosion nonetheless. And, what kid doesn’t love an explosion?! Grab a few simple supplies, we’re gonna do some science and blow some stuff up!


Have you read Jan Brett’s picture book The Mitten? It’s an absolute classic and if you haven’t read it, you 100% should. You can get a whole pile of activities to accompany the story in my shop and make a whole unit out of it!

In the book, a little boy loses his mitten in the snow (which, by the way, his grandmother warned him would happen). The forest animals climb into the mitten to stay warm. Eventually, there are 9 animals, including a fox and a bear in the mitten, so I think we can feel pretty confident that this book was not based on a true story. When all the animals are jammed in this mitten, the bear sneezes and the mitten explodes (but is somehow unscathed? Come on Ms. Brett, my suspension of disbelief is really being tested here!). The explosion we’re creating is meant to mimic the explosion that happens when bear sneezes. I will tell you right now, our ziplock is not made of the same magical stuff that the mitten is!

Any who…. we’re going to make a ziplock bag explode and it’s ridiculously fun. Keep reading to join in.

Supplies:

The simple household supplies needed for this experiment.  You can see baking soda, vinegar, toilet paper, a spoon, a marker, and a ziplock bag.
  •   Ziplock Bag
    • I used a sandwich size bag.
    • Don’t use the freezer bags, they’re too thick and won’t burst!
  •     Some baking soda
    • About 1/4 cup will be more than enough.
  •     Some vinegar
    • Roughly 1 cup will be plenty.
  •     Toilet paper squares
    • I used 9 squares, no particular brand needed.
  •     A marker or paint to decorate our bag
    • This isn’t strictly necessary, but it makes things much more fun!
  • The mitten template below-OPTIONAL

Step 1: Decorate That Bag!

Hands decorating a ziplock bag.

We’re going to start by decorating our ziplock.  I’m going to draw a mitten on mine because that’s what all the animals in the book slipped into.  You have a couple options here. First, you can trace around the template I’ve provided (click on the button below). Second, you can go rogue and free hand a mitten. That’s what I did because I like to live dangerously. You choose your own adventure!

Step 2: Make Your Baking Soda Packets

Pouring Baking Soda onto toilet paper squares.  These will act as the base in our reaction.

Now we’ll make our baking soda packets. Put about 1 tsp baking soda in the center of each toilet paper square.  Gather the corners and twist it into a little pouch.  Don’t twist too hard or you’ll break your packet open.  I made 9 packets to represent the 9 animals that crawl into that magical mitten.

Step 3: Throw Your “Animals” In The Mitten.

I like to do a read out loud where we throw one of our “animal” packets into the ziplock bag every time an animal hops in the mitten in the story. This is 100% not necessary to the science of the explosion, but it’s fun.

Step 4: Add The Vinegar and Seal The Bag

Aunt Bindi pouring vinegar onto the baking soda in our bag.

Quickly pour in the vinegar and seal the bag up. You want to seal it as quickly as possible so that you contain as much of the gas from the reaction as possible.

Step 5: EXPLOSION!

Give the baking soda and vinegar a couple seconds to react. You’ll see the bag getting more and more full until eventually it bursts. Check out my YouTube for a slow mo of the explosion!

Step 6: Talk About The Science

This easy explosion exploration is actually a great example of an acid-base chemical reaction! The vinegar gives up a hydrogen ion to the baking soda and BOOM, reaction!

One of the things that the vinegar (the acid) and the baking soda (the base) make when they combine is carbon dioxide.  That’s right, the same stuff we breathe out and plants breathe in!  

As the vinegar and baking soda are reacting, CO2 is being made and is filling our bag.  The bag is sealed, so that CO2 can’t escape.  Eventually, as the bag gets more and more full, it can’t withstand the pressure anymore and it pops!


Repeat As Many Times As You’d Like

One of the best things about this experiment is that it is simple enough for kids to do it independently. Hand them a container of baking soda, a bottle of vinegar, some toilet paper (it can even be the horrible, cheap kind) and a box of ziplocks, and you’ve spent $3.50 to keep them entertained for at least an hour!

Some questions to ask/experiments to run:

  • What happens if we don’t wrap the baking soda in toilet paper?
  • What happens if we increase the baking soda?
  • What happens if we increase the vinegar?
  • How long can we wait to seal the bag and still have an explosion?
  • What if we increase the size of our bag?

I hope you had fun creating little explosions! If you want more activities to accompany The Mitten remember to check my shop. And if you’re looking for more science experiments inspired by picture books, come back regularly, I post updates weekly!