What happens when you put a bar of Ivory soap in the microwave?
Really. Ivory soap. Plain ole sweet-smelling, plain-jane white bar o’ Ivory soap?
In the microwave.
Your kids will think you’re a rockstar, and everyone involved will be in awe.
Do it during a playdate, and your kids’ friends will forever tell tales of your awesomeness.
Children will think you’ve lost your mind and then will be starstruck by your science fabulousity.
Your disinterested, challenging kids will begin to respond to your every word, move, and idea.
The whole family will wait with wonder to see what you have up your sleeve next.
Actually, I can’t guarantee all that. But what I can say is that my kids, my husband, and I had a blast playing with soap ‘dough’–what you get when you blast Ivory soap in the microwave.
All you need is this soap, and you’re good to go. Inexpensive soap. That’s it.
Here’s the skinny. . .
- Soap Dough, Soap Molds, Crazy Cool Fun With Soap: I’ll be honest. Owen wasn’t digging the soap experiment.
He was over-tired and got frustrated with Cora in the beginning of the whole thing and so he went out front and shot some hoops instead of soapin’ it up with Cora, Maddy, and me. But he did keep coming around, sneaking glances, and trying to play but not really.
It’s been sitting there on our neat-o, FUN, new things for us to try board, and finally, finally? We did it.
After a busy morning and after rest and after a whole lot of free-bird summertime fun, I said, Hey! Remember we had ‘Fun Science Experiment’ on the calendar for today? Who’s up for checking out what I meant?
Maddy, Owen, and Cora found me in the kitchen, and we got rockin’ and rollin’.
I said, So we’re going to do something a little crazy today with this. And I handed them the bar of Ivory soap.
I also got out the only other things we’d need:
I got a lot of Huh? and What? and Why? and Mom?
Maddy opened the bar of soap, and we all held it and smelled it and passed it around. And talked about how it smelled so pretty like Nana’s bathroom. (Because that’s the soap she uses and has used for as long as I can remember.)
Then I placed it on a piece of wax paper, put it on a microwavable plate, and stepped back.
What do you think will happen if we put this puppy in the microwave? I asked.
It might melt?
It will explode?
It will ruin our microwave!
I’m not sure you should do that, Mom.
I told them that I’d only heard about this experiment but never did it myself, so I was a little nervous. I pressed 1:30 on the microwave, and we all stepped back.
What happened was totally crazy and completely strange.
We did it twice, with two bars of soap, and the ‘explosion’ looked completely different each time. It. Was. Nuts.
And though the edges were cool, the insides were HOT. Like hot, hot hot.
But the whole thing was light–like a cloud–when lifted. So the kids took turns holding it after it cooled. It was so totally fun.
After a bit of holding and observing, we took the fun outside.
I had read that you could break the soap apart, mix it, and form a sort of dough. Though I was not willing to throw it in our food processor or blender, I read that you could. We were going to put our kids to work and mix and mold on our own.
We put the big lumps of soap on two trays, each covered with a piece of wax paper.
And then? We just broke it apart. We added a few drops of food coloring to each lump, blue to Maddy’s and green to Cora’s. (By this time, Owen was shooting hoops.)
We found that the warmer parts were more easily molded and moved, but with a bit of warm water, it became this awesome, smooth, soft, fragrant dough.
It did take some work and a bit of muscle to get it into a working ‘dough’ and we had to go really, really light on the warm water. But after we found the right combo, we were able to use the cookie cutters to make fun, brightly colored soap shapes.
The O-Man even came back to get his hands in the dough after a while.
Maddy and Cora loved it. Though Cora set her sights on creating a soap mold princess crown and was disappointed that she couldn’t make it perfectly, Maddy went simple with cookie cutter molds and was better off.
Next time, I’d only bring out basic shape cookie cutters–our soap dough was a little choppy and chunky for detailed molds.
So fun. So much soapy, doughy, moldable fun that we were beside ourselves.
The big question is why does Ivory soap behave this way in the microwave? I had not a clue. But my savvy-science friends do:
- Steve Spangler, the oh-so-smart and creative science guy covers it here in Soap Souffle
- Physics Central talks microwaving soap with diagrams and a detailed explanation
- The Indianapolis Public Library blog also covers it with a few helpful links and references in books
And that’s it. Some sneaky science and fine–motor sensory fun on a cool (thankfully!) summer afternoon.
Do you have any other cool and easy science-experiments for kids? Let me have ‘em!
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