How to make a Science Table – Busy Toddler

Two children at a water table full of baking soda using squirt bottles to squeeze in colorful vinegar.

Ready to give baking soda and vinegar a huge upgrade? This perfect outdoor activity for kids takes a classic science experiment and turns it up a notch. As a bonus: It will also breathe some new life into your sand or water table at the same time. You’ve got to make a science table.

RELATED: If you love science fun, check out my post on classic childhood experiments – these are the projects we know and love.

Two children at a water table full of baking soda using squirt bottles to squeeze in colorful vinegar.

What is a science table?

“Science table” is cutesy way of saying: we did experiment in our sand/water table.

I love our sand table – don’t get me wrong – but we rarely use it for sand. I’m not a huge sand fan with my kids. It gets in their eyes, it scratches my floors when it’s tracked in… I just don’t love it.

Instead, I put a lot of activities into my sand/water table and it works so much better for our family.

Two children (4 and 2) at a water table full of baking soda using squirt bottles to squeeze in vinegar.

The supplies needed for this activity

Materials:

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A 4 year old squeezes vinegar into a container of baking soda while a 2 year old watches.

Here’s how I set up the science table

I started by sprinkling about half the box of baking soda into my sand/science table. I wanted to give it a good coating across the bottom. You’ll need to decide how much baking soda is right depending on the size of your table.

In the squirt bottles, I added white vinegar and a drop or two of food coloring to make the activity a little more colorful. Color = fancy in kid activities.

Why the science table is a “glow up” for this experiment

Let’s be honest: baking soda and vinegar is the most quintessential kid science experiment.

But it’s often over really quickly.

I remember as a kid feeling like it was a bit of a let-down: one and done, and over so fast. I wanted a bit more for my kids. Making this experiment a sheet of baking soda was a crucial step in revamping a truly beloved activity.

A 4 year old squeezes vinegar into a container of baking soda while a 2 year old watches.

How do you explain the baking soda and vinegar experiment to kids?

Explain to kids that this experiment combines an acid (vinegar) with a base (baking soda). When these two ingredients interact, they create a chemical reaction that produces a new substance called “carbon dioxide.”

You can emphasize in this experiment that a liquid and a solid mixing results in the creation of a gas (carbon dioxide).

Have kids look for the bubbles they create as evidence of this gas forming.

Overhead shot of a sand table full of baking soda and vinegar, fizzing. Two kids hold squirt bottles.

Important tip: How to stretch vinegar

This science experiment fizzles quickly once all the vinegar runs out.

To help stretch your vinegar, cut it with 50% water. That’s right: diluted vinegar still results in a chemical reaction. You do not need to use full strength vinegar.

This is hugely important because it makes your stash of vinegar last 50% longer…50% more activities. 50% more fun. This is the kind of math I’m into.

A 4 year old and a two year old squeeze vinegar into a container filled with baking soda.

One quick trick to keep the science table going

There’s another trick to this activity.

You can dump out the liquid from the table to reveal unused baking soda that will react to the vinegar again.

Remember how I said this wasn’t the one-and-done experiment from our childhood? This can keep going – it’s only a matter of pouring off the excess vinegar.

TIP: Make sure to DUMP onto the dirt as baking soda and vinegar may cause grass to die.

A 4 year old and a two year old squeeze vinegar into a container filled with baking soda.

FAQ about the Science Table

Does the food coloring stain?

Food coloring is water soluble. In an activity like this, the color is massively diluted by the vinegar. If some gets on clothing, set the fabric in cold water and watch as the color seeps out.

What age is this activity for?

Remember: stages not ages. In this activity, my children are 2 and 4 years old. They loved this science table. The success of the activity is generally more decided by the interests and tastes of the child than their age.

Think: would my child like this? That’s your biggest key in determining an activity.

Is baking soda and vinegar a taste safe experiment?

It is… technically. Baking soda and vinegar are both commonly used cooking supplies. However, baking soda, when consumed in mass quantities, can be poisonous. As always, use good judgment and supervision when deciding if an activity is right for your child

When will you make a science table for your littles?


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