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Combining Science and Pretend Play


When I pulled out the volcano acid + base experiment that we had from the Kid Concoctions set that ALEX Toys sent us, I was planning a simple experiment, but the kids had other ideas! They grabbed the rocks we use with play dough, some grass from our yard, and their plastic dinosaurs and set up a pretend play small world scene!


The kids all thought the volcano was really cool! We have done the standard baking soda plus vinegar volcano before; for this version, you mix together two powders, one of which is presumably an acid and the other a base. Then you just add water. I think this is a good way for kids to learn that you can create the same (or a similar) reaction in different ways.

Johnny was a little concerned about the dinosaurs’ welfare, being so close by, so Emma declared that it was a magical volcano that spewed candy instead of hot lava and ash, and everyone was able to play happily.


We didn’t spend much time talking about the science behind the experiment, but I think that’s all right. For me, the main reason to do science experiments with young children is to help them see that science is some of the coolest stuff there is! You don’t get learning without engagement, and fun, visual science is one of the easiest ways to get kids thinking about how the world works. Turning hot volcanic lava and ash isn’t bad, either – it’s all about compromising to meet the needs of an entire group, and some creative problem-solving. Imagination at its best!

Do you have a favorite science activity for kids? Squishy circuits  from Nerdy Science is on my list to try this summer, along with the other experiments from this kit! Do you have any other suggestions for us to try?

I blog for ALEX Toys, and they periodically send us products to review. All opinions are my own.

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

22 thoughts on “Combining Science and Pretend Play”

  1. So cool! I love how kids naturally combine creativity with science. I think that is why STEAM learning sound so great.

  2. I got Squishy circuits for my now 5yr olds Birthday and I think it’s an awesome little kit. The sugar/insulating dough was really sticky though, and we found just using air as our insulator to be easier.
    I’d like to see what you do and hear how your circuits work out.

  3. My kids love to play with baking soda and vinegar and I’m surprised we never made a volcano at home. The girls did this at a Mad Science summer class. I love that you added toys to make a play scene!

  4. My kids are really into the Magic School Bus DVDs at the moment and today we watched “Blows Its Top” – this would have been the perfect follow-up activity. My daughter asked if we could make a volcano but unfortunately I’m out of baking soda! I love the small world play your kids created and that Johnny was concerned about the dinosaur.

  5. I love your children’ imaginations. I like sometimes to get out oil, water, vinegar, baking soda, salt, etc, and let Anna go to town with all this :)

  6. Cool Mama! My kids would love this!

    Sometimes when I talk about the science behind it, they look at me like…what! Sometimes not, but sometimes.

    I think it’s cool what you are doing!

    Looks like the kids are having a blast!

  7. Volcanoes are on our summer science list. I purchased the Google Offer for the Magic School Bus Science Kits that are delivered monthly. We’re two (out of two so far) months behind because we had a rough past two months. I’m hoping to catch up. We have one kit on weather and one on volcanoes. I’ll have to incorporate your pretend play with it. We have lots of dinosaurs and rocks. Great idea!

      1. Google Offers are kind of like Groupon. They have different deals. The Magic School Bus Kits were 12 mo for $120 for the offer (50% off normal prices). I figured $10/mo was a good budget for new science ideas for our busy lifestyle. So far we’ve been too busy to break into them, so I’ll let you know how they go.

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