As the weather turns colder with the changing season, some children come to school without enough layers to be warm during outside playtime. Games and engaging activities can keep children moving, warming them as they stay active. Blowing and chasing bubbles encourages children to stay in motion. If the bubble solution you bought last summer is not holding up and bubbles don’t last, try making your own solution.
The most widely recommended solution combines water, liquid dish detergent, and glycerine. Some recipes call for adding corn syrup or other form of sugar but it may leave a sticky residue. Many recipes call for Dawn dishwashing liquid to make the longest lasting bubbles.
Materials Safety Data Sheets list the necessary safety information for products such as soap and glycerin. These products do not require any special precautions, however, guided by the experience of getting soap in my eyes, I encourage children to wear goggles while mixing bubble solution or if they fling it about when working hard to make bubbles.
Blowing bubbles is both fun and an experience with a natural phenomena. The National Wildlife Federation’s Family Fun pages suggests we use bubbles as a way to tell which direction the wind is blowing from in the “Watch Weather” activity. Scientific American describes how to do a fair test of 3 different recipes in “Blow the Best Bubbles: A soapy chemistry challenge from Science Buddies.” Spoiler alert! Don’t read to the end of their column until you do your own test and have thought about your own results. The Exploratorium in San Francisco is a “public learning laboratory exploring the world through science, art, and human perception.” Their resources include hands-on, teacher-tested Science Snacks such as the “Bubble Tray,” and a page of bubble formula.
See the delight a child feels at being a competent bubble-blower on The Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education (CEESTEM) at the University of Northern Iowa short video. The CEESTEM’s “Bubble” page shares many ideas for investigating bubbles and offers safety tips.
Bubble blowing is favored by occupational and speech therapists as a fun and productive activity for children. Share your bubble experiences with the families of your students so they can explore bubble formation scientifically, like the family in ExpeRimental’s video, “Giant Bubbles,” brought to you by the Royal Institution of Great Britain.
Children of all ages can enjoy watching, making and altering bubbles. Preschoolers can explore what happens to a bubble solution when either salt, sugar, honey or paint is added. The Colorado Department of Education, Colorado State Library has pages on bubble activities for people from babies to adults. Children enjoy using electric mixers as part of my newest favorite bubble play—making foam! See the Early Years column, “Blowing Bubbles” in the January issue of Science and Children for more about ways to make and explore foam.
While the mechanics and chemistry of bubbles is fascinating, young children gain the most information in a developmentally appropriate way through experience.