Exploring the Science of Bubbles

Four Easy Investigations for Children of All Ages

Bubbles are deceptively simple. They are beautiful, fun, and the gateway to some complicated science topics. Children can experience physics hands-on and close up as they play with bubbles. Four easy to set up investigations lead children to think about how bubbles are created, the shape they take, and why they often last but a moment.

Science of Bubbles

Suggested Bubble Investigation Supplies

  • Bubble solution – either purchased or made at home from a recipe
  • Shallow plastic tub
  • Disposable pie plate or roasting pan
  • Straws
  • Hollow tubing or piece of an old hose
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Plastic strawberry baskets
  • Plastic cups or lids with the centers cut out
  • Chopsticks or skewers
  • Fly swatters
  • Plastic cookie cutters
  • String or yarn
Kids playing with bubbles

Creating Homemade Bubble Wands

Store bought bubble wands stretch soapy water into a thin film that can be blown. There are many other objects that can be used to stretch water. Pour about 1 inch of bubble solution into a tub, pie plate, or roasting pan. How many household items can children find to make homemade bubble wands? Some ideas to get the investigation started:

  • Bend pipe cleaners into the shape of a traditional bubble wand, with a circle at one end and a handle at the other.
  • Tie a loop of string or yarn onto the end of a chopstick.
  • Thread string through a straw. Tie the ends of the string together so that the straw is pulled into a circular shape.
  • Cut the center out of a small plastic cup. Blow through one end.

Different Ways to Make Bubbles

Bubbles are made up of air surrounded by a thin film of water. To make a bubble, one just needs to trap air inside water, either by blowing or using another method. Children can try to form bubbles without blowing through a wand. Pour about 6 inches of bubble solution into a tub, pie plate, or roasting pan. Some ideas to get the investigation started:

  • Blow air through a tube. Use a section of old garden hose or a straw held under the water to blow bubbles into the tub.
  • Wave a wand. Use a fly swatter, a plastic strawberry basket, or a small plastic cup with the center cut out. Instead of blowing through them, wave them to create bubbles.
  • Stretch a film out of the tub. Cut about a 2 foot length of string. Thread the string through two straws. Tie the ends of the string together, and hide the knot inside one of the straws. Hold one straw in each end and pull, forming a rectangle with the strings. Hold the entire contraption under the bubble solution in the tin. Slowly pull one straw out of the solution to form a giant, stretched bubble.

The Shape of a Bubble

Is it possible to make a square bubble? Have children make different shapes from the pipe cleaners – hearts, squares, or diamonds. When they blow into the wands, they will still form round bubbles. As the water traps the air, it attempts to squeeze the gas into the smallest possible volume. The resulting surface tension creates the shape with the least amount of surface area – a sphere.


Popping or Evaporation

Challenge children to touch a bubble without breaking it. Bubbles pop when they are dry. When children wet their hands in the soapy solution, they can hold bubbles without popping them. Try making bubbles without any wands – just two hands. Dip both hands into the bubble solution. Form a tight triangle by overlapping the thumbs and fingers of each hand and stretch a film of solution just as with a wand. Blow!

Playing with bubbles is a quick and easy way to explore science in the backyard. Once children have finished these activities, follow their lead to create even more bubble investigations, further examine some physical science topics, like surface tension or evaporation, or set up more fun outdoor activities.