Explosions for Three-Year-Olds
May 13, 2014 10:56 AM   Subscribe

The coolest, smartest almost-three-year-old I know is having his birthday next month. He's really into explosions--what kind of experiments can we perform that will blow his little mind (beyond baking powder volcanoes)? Thank you!
posted by sugarbomb to Science & Nature (19 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Mentos and Coca Cola?
posted by kinetic at 11:00 AM on May 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Elephant toothpaste
posted by drlith at 11:11 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Film cannister + half an alka seltzer + a little bit of water.


Ziplock bag + 2 alka seltzers + a few tablespoons of water.


Plastic water bottle + 5 alka seltzers + a few ounces of water.

I'm sure you could come up with more.

I did this with my Girl Scouts and they were blown away. (Messy. Actually a little bit dangerous. Do it outside.)

p.s. Eponysterical, especially if you do mentos and diet coke.

And then there are always popsicle stick bombs...
posted by phunniemee at 11:11 AM on May 13, 2014

Film canister rockets!

Actual film canisters are harder to come by with the advent of digital film - any small plastic bottle with a tight-fitting pop-off lid should work. A local pharmacy would probably sell you some for pretty cheap.
posted by Knicke at 11:11 AM on May 13, 2014

Not explosive, but cool: Color changing milk. And browse that website for other ideas.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:13 AM on May 13, 2014

Dry Ice Soap Bubbles.
posted by alms at 11:14 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also not an explosion, but an awesome safe rocket (that goes really high) for preschoolers: Stomp Rocket Jr.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:23 AM on May 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Big chunk of sodium in pond. The ultimate in home explosion technology. Be sure to keep a safe distance. A little farther than you're thinking of...

(Or, in smaller amounts, set water on fire.)
posted by Naberius at 11:28 AM on May 13, 2014

Are you willing to splurge for a carbide cannon? They aren't all that expensive.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:31 AM on May 13, 2014

Might be fun to buy sparklers or little "poppers" that you throw on the ground - or fireworks if you live in a locality where they are legal.

Of course, to be set off by adults for the pleasure of the toddlers who are observing from a safe distance.
posted by amaire at 11:39 AM on May 13, 2014

My chemist friend did the dry ice soap bubbles for mutual friend's children, who were 1, 3, and 4 at the time, and I can confirm that they thought it was SUPER COOL.
posted by kellygrape at 11:50 AM on May 13, 2014

Instead of a baking soda and vinegar volcano, put it in a bag until it pops. I knew someone out there had to be doing this with their kids, so I googled around and found one with kind of a "timing device."

You can also use it to blow up balloons (not an explosion).

Ivory soap "bombs". Ivory soap has a reaction when microwaved, it kind of..grows. I'd cut the bar in half or even quarters, put it on a paper plate, and microwave for 2 minutes (less for less soap). Not a real explosion, but definitely a watchable reaction.

Seconding the film canister rockets, they're a lot of fun.

Baking soda/vinegar plus glow paint!

Don't throw sodium in a pond, please. Aside from environmental impact, you could burn your skin or cause permanent damage to your eyes. Sodium reacts with water, so any of it on your body could react to sweat, or attempts to wash it off, and cause a thermal or chemical burn; the fumes from the reaction are dangerous as well. (That was not table salt they were throwing in that video.)
posted by barchan at 12:40 PM on May 13, 2014

How about some virtual explosions?

Apple Store: Action Movie FX
Google Play Store: FXGuru Movie FX Director
posted by Seboshin at 1:07 PM on May 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Kids love straw popping and all it takes is some straws.
posted by homesickness at 1:13 PM on May 13, 2014

If you're still trying to answer this question in fifteen years, the answer is Explosives Camp.
posted by postel's law at 1:16 PM on May 13, 2014

Hit up your local hackerspace! (Based on your profile data, you have a good one close.) Blowing up things safely is pretty much on the fun times list of every hackerspace ever. They'll likely have ideas and maybe even stuff on hand. They may even be willing to help you set up something slightly more elaborate.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:20 PM on May 13, 2014

This may or may not be an option for you, but: Model rocket. A real one.
Yes, they all say 10 and up. Yes, your little buddy will have to be watched like a hawk. But if you or anyone around you has model rocketry experience (from childhood?), you can do it safely, and even let him help press the launch button, and he will probably die of happiness.

I live in a sufficiently urban area that we can't launch model rockets on our own, BUT there is a model rocketry club that has all the necessary permits and hosts monthly public launches. They bring launching equipment that you can use if you don't have your own.

If you do need launch equipment, Estes sells starter kits with launch pad plus rocket that aren't too excruciatingly expensive. Hobby Lobby carries model rockets and some Michaels stores do - if you have these, buy your rockets there and use a 40% off coupon. Don't get a preassembled one, get the easiest build level (ARF, almost ready to fly or E2X, easy build).

I've seen Alpha III frequently recommended; we got Dragonite (because it had a dragon on it). It snapped together without glue. The build was quite fiddly (we built it "together" but most of that time was spent telling my son not to touch anything. Read the instructions and be sure you know how to do it before you let him see the parts on the table. Nonetheless, my son put the stickers on the fins and so in his mind he built it and was super proud.) I have never seen that kid so excited as when he made his very own rocket blast off. He was also really excited watching others launch their rockets, so the public launch was actually an excellent idea.

If you're considering this, search for model rocket clubs in your area. In Northern Illinois, it's NIRA (Northern Illinois Rocketry Association)
posted by telepanda at 7:02 AM on May 14, 2014

If you want each guest to have a personal explosion, you can try this:

Put a glass of Sprite on a tray.
Sprinkle black pepper to cover the entire surface.
Once that is fairly sturdy, pour salt into the center of the surface. When enough salt accumulates to be heavy enough to break the surface, it plunges into the Sprite and the whole thing fizzes over onto the tray

It's more of a volcano/oozing/fizzing/bubbling thing than an actual explosion, but it's right there in front of you and it's all yours.
posted by CathyG at 8:51 AM on May 14, 2014

Perhaps for a few years down the road (designed for 8 and up) - this toy to build a building then demolish it. And rebuild it. Repeatedly. Like this Triple Blast Warehouse.
posted by enfa at 10:24 AM on May 14, 2014

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