How Bubbles Work and 20 Things to Do with Them

We all know that kids love bubbles.  Adults do too.  But how do they work? Here’s the Science of Bubbles and 20 cool things to do with them to help the kids learn through play.  This post contains affiliate links.

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How Bubbles Work

What is a bubble made of?  Bubbles are made up of a thin film of soap filled with a pocket of air.  The film is actually three different layers, a layer of water molecules trapped between two layers of soap molecules.  Each soap molecule is oriented so that its water-016be1d91d96f4af4c537fb4afb0217e7117b10634loving, or hydrophilic, head faces towards the trapped water layer.  The hydrophobic (water-fearing) heads of the soap molecules face outwards.  Because these hydrophobic heads are kind of greasy, they don’t evaporate as quickly, giving the bubble extra life.

Why do soapy bubbles last but not plain water bubbles?  The soap changes the surface tension of the water, making it harder for the film to break.  Water molecules are attracted to other water molecules causing them to constantly pull on each other.  You can imagine that the pulling wouldn’t allow a big bubble film to last very long.  The soap steps in and separates them (sooooo many parenting analogies in surface tension) preventing the water molecules from pulling on each other so much.  That reduced pulling, or reduced surface tension, allows the bubble to become big and last.01e889b1a412530d9e1b22fa45afab19c577dfc812

Why are bubbles spherical?  It’s surface tension’s fault again.  (Moooommm…  water did it, not me.)  Basically, the bubble will minimize itself until the surface area (and surface tension) are as low as possible.  A sphere is the shape with the lowest surface area and is less likely to break.

Why is a bubble multi-colored?  You know how bubbles always have that iridescent glow to them?  That’s due to the interference (or combination) of light reflecting from inside the bubble’s film and outside the bubble’s film.  The colors change as the thickness of the film changes when it floats away.

014291513d0ec0f219fea0dd50f5835a3fe7f3c165Why do bubbles pop?  Bubbles pop when the water in them evaporates or they touch a dry surface like a fingertip.  The film can’t hold without the water molecules trapped inside.

Want a more complete explanation of bubble science?  Check out the San Francisco Exploratorium’s Bubbles overview.  Plus, they make a lot of bubbles there, so I’m assuming their recipe is one of the best.  Be sure to include the glycerin {affiliate}, it’s critical for more stable bubbles.

The Babe and I kicked off Bubble Day with some basic bubble machine and wand blowing.  There’s a ton of fun stuff to do with that bubble solution you made.  We can’t decide what to do next…  For starters, here are 20 creative things to do with them.

20 Bubble Activities

  1. Teach the kids bubble science :)
  2. Rainbow Soap Foam from Fun at Home with Kids
  3. Bouncing Bubbles from Play at Home Mom
  4. Bubble Snake Maker from Come Together Kids
  5. Water Bottle Bubbles from Projects for Preschoolers
  6. Baby Pool Bubbles from the Busy Budgeting Mama
  7. Build facial muscle tone important to developing speech by blowing bubbles with a kazoo instead of a wand.
  8. Hula Hoop Bubbles from One Charming Party
  9. Lavender Scented Bubbles from Smart School House
  10. Bubble Dough from Creative Playhouse
  11. Square Bubbles from Teach Beside Me
  12. Teach the scientific method to the kiddos by testing which soap makes the biggest / strongest / longest lasting bubbles.
  13. Bubble Prints from Art is Basic
  14. Glow in the Dark bubbles and
  15. Kool-Aid Bubbles from Growing a Jeweled Rose
  16. Frozen Bubbles from What Do We Do All Day?
  17. Dry Ice Crystal Bubble Ball from Curbly
  18. Make bubble explosions by pouring vinegar on baking soda.  Color the water with food coloring for even more interesting bubbles.
  19. Building with Bubbles from Small Potatoes

No. 20 doesn’t really count as the same kind of bubbles as the other ideas, but it’s super fun…  Set up a Bubble Tea Stand instead of a lemonade stand just like they did over at Mama.Papa.Bubba.

Have you been having bubble fun yet this spring?  It’s been warm in California, so the bubbles are out in force.  I’d love to hear about your fun ideas for bubble play…

The Ultimate Bubble Toy

I don’t know about you, but we’ve tried a lot of bubble wands and a lot of bubble juice.  I have to share the toy that helped me take all these fun pictures of my daughter! The Gazillion Bubble Blizzard {affiliate}.

The Science of Play

Love hearing about how things work?  Kids into STEAM {Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math)? Then sign up for the Left Brain Craft Brain newsletter.  You’ll get updates full of new activities plus subscriber exclusive printables and more.

How Bubbles Work and 20 Things to Do With Them 2


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