Here’s a fun soap experiment for teaching kids about germs. Teach healthy habits like washing hands with kids. Children will love learning about germs!
Why Teaching Kids About Germs Can Be Tricky
Germs are tiny and we can’t see them. It’s hard for kids to understand that something they can’t see can actually make them sick.
Even though they can’t see germs, kids need to know how to protect themselves from them by using healthy habits. In this experiment, we’ll be using glitter to represent dirt and germs. This will give kids a chance to see how dirt and “germs” respond to soap.
This experiment stresses how important it is to wash our hands thoroughly. Germs like to hang around in little nooks and crannies… as does glitter. Remind children to wash their hands for 20 seconds. As they wash the glitter off, they’ll see why it’s important to take their time.
The kids will also get to see the difference that using soap makes. Washing your hands with water may rinse off some dirt and germs, but soap does a much better job. They’ll see right away that the glitter washes off more easily when they use soap.
It’s a really fun activity for teaching kids about germs in a more concrete way. It’s easy to do, uses materials you already have, and doesn’t require a science degree to explain (phew!).
If you’re quarantined for a while and looking for some activities to keep your kids busy, look no further. I made this Free Editable Homeschool Schedule to use with my own kids these next few weeks. Download it for free and grab my other freebies to keep those kids from getting bored.
I love kitchen science activities for rainy days. If you do too, you have to try this Lemon Volcano Experiment and my Play Dough Recipe. Both winners in my book. But first, let’s tackle some germs.
Why It’s Important to Teach Kids About Germs
Washing hands is a life skill that prevents sickness and disease. Currently, the Coronavirus has everyone in a panic. Fortunately, there’s something we can do to drastically reduce our chances of contracting it: washing our hands.
No fancy equipment, no special medicine, just good old soap and water. That’s something kids can do on their own to protect themselves, but they may need some coaching and a few reminders to do it correctly.
Use this FREE Healthy Habits Pledge and Award to remind children to wash their hands and make healthy choices. I have a ton of other free stuff over there too (including this Fungus is Among Us Book Support freebie, so be sure to look around my Exceptional Thinkers store.
Germ Experiment Objective:
This glitter germ experiment demonstrates the importance of washing our hands. By the end of the activity, children should be able to explain why it’s important to use soap and wash our hands thoroughly.
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Germ Experiment Instructions:
I broke this experiment into three parts. You don’t necessarily need to do all three parts, but they’re fun and easy, so why not:
1. Getting Germy
2. Washing the Germs Away
3. The Powers of Soap
Tip: Keep the paper towels nearby for all three parts. There’s glitter involved so it can’t hurt to be prepared.
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Part 1: Getting Germy
1. Ask children to wet their hands.
2. Put a tiny bit of glitter on each child’s hand over a tray. You don’t need a lot of glitter for this demonstration. Less glitter = less potential for a mess.
(Optional) Use different colored glitter and assign children an illness to spread. For example, pink could be pink eye, green can be the flu, and blue can be a sore throat.
4. Invite children to shake hands with each other.
5. Take a moment to notice how the colors spread around and the illnesses they represent. Remind the children that these “germs” are only pretend. Make sure to keep the atmosphere light and fun (and not scary)!
Germ Experiment Discussion Questions:
- What happened when shook your friends’ hands?
- How does this relate to germs?
- What can we do to clean the glitter/ germs off?
Part 2: Washing the Germs Away
6. Hand each child a paper towel and ask them to wipe the glitter off over a tray or garbage can.
7. They’ll likely have trouble getting the glitter off, so prompt them for another solution to get it off (water).
8. Give the children a chance to rinse the glitter off in a sink without soap first.
9. Finally, invite them to wash the glitter off with soap and water for 20 seconds.
Washing Hands Discussion Questions:
- Which was the most effective way to clean the glitter off?
- Which was the least effective technique?
- How does this relate to germs?
- How can we protect ourselves from germs and sickness?
Part 3: The Powers of Soap
10. Fill a tray or dish with an inch or two of water. I recommend giving each child their own tray.
11. Sprinkle glitter onto the water (fine glitter works best). If you don’t have glitter, you can try this experiment with pepper or actual dirt instead.
12. Put a drop of dish soap onto the child’s fingertip and invite them to dip their finger into the glitter water.
13. Encourage children to discuss why we use soap to wash our hands.
Soap Experiment Discussion Questions:
- What happened to the glitter when you dipped your soapy finger into the water?
- How do you think this relates to germs?
- What happens when we wash our hands with soap?
How the Germ Experiment Works:
Water has the ability to rinse dirt away, but it does not have cleaning properties and is not a disinfectant. We use soap to clean and disinfect.
When you sprinkle glitter onto water, most of it floats on the top. This is thanks to surface tension. Surface tension is a property that causes the water molecules on the top of the water to cling to each other.
When a drop of soap is added to the water, we see the glitter spread out along the surface of the water towards the sides of the container. That’s because the soap changes the surface tension when it’s added. The water molecules want to stay together so they pull away from the soap and carry the glitter specks with them. For a more in depth explanation of how the soap experiment works, visit the Science for Kids Club.