A lot of chemistry happens in the kitchen. Today we’ll discuss how to introduce the concept of phase change while making oatmeal or pasta (or any dish that requires you to create a phase change with water).
The next time you find your child helping you in the kitchen it may be a great time to introduce them to phase change. Chances are they may have already asked things like “What makes the water turn into steam?” or “Why is it steamy?” Once your child starts asking these types of questions, it’s a great time to introduce them to the topic of phase change.
How do we make steam?
If you find your child asking questions about why water turns to steam when on the stove, start a conversation with them about what they think is happening. They may have some great ideas!
If they need some guidance to understand what’s happening, you may want to do an experiment. Simply, put some water in a small pot and place it on the stove, turn the heat on low and check the pot again in a few minutes. Is anything happening? Have your child record their observations (this can be a drawing or a few words). Turn the heat up to medium and wait a few more minutes. Record your observations again. Finally, turn to stove to high heat and return to check it in a few minutes. Record your observations again.
Let’s assume your child made the following observations:
Review the observations with your child and discuss how as the temperature increased so did the activity of the water. Discuss with them what was happening as the temperature was increased. You may want to say, “As the water started to boil it began to change phase and the liquid water turned into steam (or water vapor).”
If your child is interested, you may want to introduce them to a phase change diagram like this one:
Explain that as we increase the temperature of the water the water is able to turn into steam. You may even want to explain the diagram in more detail by also discussing the following:
-How molecules like to act during each phase
-The temperatures at which water changes phases
-Where a glass of ice water or a pot of boiling water is represented on the diagram
Use your child’s interest and age as a guide to how in depth you dive into phase change. Maybe even consider doing some more experiments with liquid water and ice.
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If you have younger kids, they can follow along with their own pots and pan play set.