Need to kill an hour or so? With about five minutes of prep, this baking soda and vinegar process art for preschoolers or toddlers will definitely fill the need! They’ll practice color names, fine motor skills and (suprisingly!) probably not even make a mess with this fun baking soda experiment for kids.
Okay, this may seem counterintuitive to some. But when my kids are being decidedly EXTRA, I don’t try to calm them down. Frankly, it’s a losing battle, and I just end up feeling like I’m banging my head against the wall.
And one or more of us often end up crying.
Instead, I meet them in that very-extra place with an activity that seems very-extra to them. Sensory activities are usually my go to, and this baking soda and vinegar process art is my Hail Mary on an extra wiggly day inside.
With about five minutes worth of prep and ingredients you probably already have on hand, baking soda and vinegar is the the perfect way to mesmerize (and calm down) busy toddler bodies.
And I hope you bought that baking soda in bulk- because they’re going to want to do this one again, and again, and again.
Read on for the full instructions on how to set up a baking soda process art activity on your own, right here at home!
What You’ll Need for Your Baking Soda and Vinegar Process Art
Well if the name alone didn’t tip you off…you’re going to need baking soda and vinegar.
BUT there are some other tools and accessories that make it easier (and more fun!) too.
You’ll also need:
- A large container of baking soda
- A large container of vinegar
- Clear glass or plastic cups
- Food coloring
- A large dish or pan
Nice to have (pick one or more):
Note: these are all SUPER cheap, and we use them for all kinds of things. They’re all good to have in your wheelhouse!
Making This Activity Less Messy
This activity can get a little messy. Which is why kids love it so much, but also why moms are hesitant to try it.
Note: we always do this activity on the floor. It helps protect our furniture, and keeps the baking soda low to the ground so powder doesn’t go everywhere! I also recommend doing this activity on a hard surface, not carpet.
To make it less messy, consider setting the activity up on a plastic tray with a lip. This makes it easy to dump the whole thing in the sink when you’re done, and contains some of the mess.
You can also lay out an old picnic blanket, plastic tablecloth, or beach towel. Since the ingredients are all cleaning products, they can go straight into the washer when the kids are done (note that food coloring can stain though, so make sure to use an old towel!
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Setting Up Your Baking Soda Activity
Choose a pan, plate, or other flat-bottomed dish. When you’re first trying this activity, I recommend using a smaller container like a small plate (in case of a total pour-over).
As kids get more experienced (and learned that going slower is more fun), you can move to a larger pan and trust them not to use up the entire chemical reaction at once. We’ve used pie pans, disposable tins (good for mess clean up!), and 9×13 Pyrex glass containers.
Shake out a shallow layer (a 1/2 inch or less) into the bottom of the pan. Shake to make sure it’s spread evenly.
Getting Your Vinegar Ready
Of course, you could just give your kids plain white vinegar for this one and they would still have fun. But we love the additional learning (and fun) that comes with adding a little food coloring to it first!
First, decide how many colors you want to use. When first introducing it, we recommend using only one or two colors. In future play sessions, you can give them more options.
Pour a small amount of vinegar into small cups, one for each color. Glass is nice so that kids can see the color better, but nothing beats how easy plastic cups are for this.
Add a drop or two of food coloring to each bowl and give it a tiny stir. That’s it!
Give Your Kiddos Some Tools for Their Baking Soda and Vinegar Process Art
You have a choice to make here- do you want to let your kiddos choose their own tools for transfering the vinegar, or do you want to choose for them?
I introduced a different tool every time we tried this activity. An eye dropper is a great place to start (and works GREAT for developing hand strength and fine motor skills).
We’ve also used medicine cups, syringes, small spray bottles, and straws. Change up the tools often to keep this activity fresh and exciting for your kids.
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Let Your Kids Experiment with Baking Soda and Vinegar
We know it’s tempting to step in, but we believe this activity goes best when it’s child led. If they need help using the tools, feel free to show them how. But beyond that, let them have at it!
Kids can make patterns or just drop vinegar into the pan. They can stir colors, mix colors, or pour out their vinegar into the pan completely.
If this stresses you out, just remember a few things:
- These are household products, and don’t pose a major safety threat for your kids (kids, obviously, still need to be supervised during this activity).
- Baking soda and vinegar are often used to clean, so the odds of making a permanent/unfixable mess is slim.
- These ingredients are CHEAP. If you need to set it up again because they “mess it up,” it’s relatively cheap and easy to do so.
- You can also lay out a few rules ahead of time, like no pouring directly from the cup of vinegar or that baking soda stays in the pan, if it helps you!
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Keep This a Process Art Activity
Look, this is not one of those activities where you end up with something cute for your fridge. In fact, there’s no final product at all for this baking soda art for preschoolers.
The joy in making art comes from the creating, not from making a permanent product. Let your toddlers and preschoolers explore color, shape, and self expression during this one, and don’t worry at all about the outcome.
When they’re done, you can take a picture for them to admire, and then you can clean out the pan to make more baking soda art all over again.
Cleaning Up Your Baking Soda Art for Toddlers
Okay, so the project is done and, let’s face it, theres’s a bit of a mess to deal with. But if you’ve followed our set up tips, it’s not likely TOO bad.
First up, baking soda and vinegar are often used to clean sinks. If you know these products are safe on your sink, you can just pour the whole thing down the drain and let it clean in the process.
If not, tap the baking soda and vinegar into the trash before washing your pan. Shake out your towel over the trash as well, or just send it into the washer as is (baking soda and vinegar are often added to washing machines, so in moderate amounts it’ll actually help, not hurt!)
Sweep up loose baking soda, then run over the area with a mop.
With chemical reactions, bold colors, and open ended play, we think your kids will love this baking soda and vinegar process art for preschoolers as much as ours do. Don’t be surprised if this activity makes a regular appearance at your house!
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