Dry ice is the perfect material for playing around with science. Although it is much colder than regular ice, it's pretty safe for kids who are old enough to avoid getting it on their bare skin. (Supervision is recommended.)
Dry ice is actually frozen carbon dioxide -- the same gas we exhale when we breathe. Because it can stay cold for several days without refrigeration, dry ice is often used for packing food for shipping.
But since dry ice turns from a solid back into a gas at -78 degrees Celsius (-109 degrees Fahrenheit), you can also use it to create some interesting effects. Let kids try to make a giant bubble and other dry ice activities outside on a summer day.
- Elementary (K-5)
- Middle School (6-8)
- High School (9-12)
Time Required30 minutes
- following directions
- handling materials carefully
- dry ice (pellets if available)
- gloves (winter gloves will do)
- safety goggles
- hammer and paper bag (if needed to break up a block of dry ice)
- 2 plastic cups and bowls
- dish soap
- dish cloth or paper towel
Possible Subject Connections
- Break up the dry ice. Dry ice is available from some grocery stores or ice cream shops. You can also find it at welding shops. If you can't find pellets, you will have to get a block and break it up. Wearing heavy gloves and goggles, place the block of dry ice in the paper bag. Hit it with the hammer until it is broken into chunks about the size of a golf ball.
- Fill the containers with water. Leave some room to add the dry ice without making the water overflow.
- Add dry ice. Wearing gloves and safety goggles, use the tongs to carefully drop a small piece of dry ice into the cups. As the water warms the dry ice, it turns back into a gas. The water should "boil" and "steam" should start to waft off the top -- just like the right-hand cup in the photo.
- Add dish soap to one of the containers. Use a cup or bowl with as wide an opening as possible. A drop or two of soap will do.
- Watch the soapy water foam. Just like the cup on the left in the photo, you should see a column of foam rise up.
- Create one giant bubble. Cover the bowl with the cloth. Draw it slowly across the top of the bowl. One giant bubble, the size of the bowl, should form.
More Dry Ice Experiments
Dry ice can last for a few days, so you can try a number of different experiments. We enjoyed doing the activities below.