Ice -> Water -> Steam

by Deb on October 23, 2009

Another quick activity even babies can do.  Grab an icecube and put it on a saucer to observe it.  Remember observation means using all five senses:

  • What can you see? – colour, opacity, movement, shape
  • What can you hear? – cracks, squeaking
  • What can you smell? – hopefully nothing!
  • What can you feel? – temperature, shape, hardness, smoothness
  • What can you taste?

As it melts from solid to liquid this is called a phase change.  For older kids you could even put a thermometer touching it and see what happens (it should go up, hover a bit then continue going up, but that might be hard to see with a normal thermometer).

  • Try the same observations with the water.
  • Very cold water is tasteless because your taste buds don’t work well when frozen!

Now put some water into a cup and quickly heat it in a microwave.  This means there is no hot stove, but remember the water will be hot and can burn!  Only do it for a few seconds and don’t boil it, you can always heat it a bit more but you can’t undo a burn.  This will work even with water that’s only warm, it doesn’t need to be anywhere near boiling.

Cover it with some plastic wrap or a hanky while it is heating.  When it comes out the plastic wrap will have some water drops on the bottom, or a hanky will feel damp.  This is because some of the water has vapourised into steam or water vapour and been caught.

  • Go through the same observations with the warm water or steam.  Unfortunately steam is pretty much invisible but can be felt.
  • Boil a kettle to hear water changing to a gas.
  • Warm water tastes quite different to cold water or tap water.

Now put the wet wrap or hanky in the freezer and it will freeze and solidify again fairly quickly.

This little series lets children explore the differences between solids, liquids and gases, and see that they change into each other.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie November 2, 2009 at 5:15 am

I love the idea of using the 5 senses when observing things. Makes for much more interesting and involving discussion about what is going on.


Deb November 3, 2009 at 12:36 am

Definitely. When we say ‘observe’ most of us think eyes only. But there is so much more you can get if you really pay attention to your other senses.


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