Exploring the Science of Bubbles

Bubbles appear to be deceptively simple. They are beautiful, entertaining, and serve as a gateway to some complex scientific topics. As they play with bubbles, children can learn about physics firsthand and up close. Four simple investigations encourage children to consider how bubbles are formed, the shapes they take, and why they often last only a few seconds.

Bubble Investigation Supplies Suggestions

  • Bubble solution – either bought or homemade from a recipe
  • Plastic tub, shallow
  • Pie plate or roasting pan, disposable
  • Straws
  • Hollow tubing or an old hose piece
  • Cleaners for pipes
  • Strawberry baskets made of plastic
  • Centers cut out of plastic cups or lids
  • skewers or chopsticks
  • flier swatters
  • Cookie cutters made of plastic
  • Yarn or string

Kids playing with bubbles

Making Your Own Bubble Wands

Bubble wands from the store stretch soapy water into a thin film that can be blown. A variety of other objects can be used to stretch water. Fill a tub, pie plate, or roasting pan with about 1 inch of bubble solution. How many household items can kids collect to make their own bubble wands? To get the investigation started, consider the following:

  • Make a traditional bubble wand out of pipe cleaners, with a circle at one end and a handle at the other.
  • Tie a string or yarn loop around the end of a chopstick.
  • Thread a straw with string. Tie the ends of the string together so that the straw forms a circle.
  • Remove the center of a small plastic cup. Blow one end through.


Various Methods for Making Bubbles

Bubbles are composed of air surrounded by a thin layer of water. To make a bubble, simply trap air inside water, either by blowing or by another method. Children can try to make bubbles without using a wand. Fill a tub, pie plate, or roasting pan with about 6 inches of bubble solution. To get the investigation started, consider the following:

  • Blow air into a tube. Blow bubbles into the tub with an old garden hose or a straw held under the water.
  • Make a wand motion. A fly swatter, a plastic strawberry basket, or a small plastic cup with the center cut out can all be used. Rather than blowing through them, wave them to make bubbles.
  • Extend a film from the tub. Make a 2 foot length of string. Wrap the string around two straws. Tie the string ends together and conceal the knot inside one of the straws. Pull one straw from each end to form a rectangle with the strings. Place the entire contraption in the tin’s bubble solution. Pull one straw slowly out of the solution to form a massive, stretched bubble.

The Form of a Bubble

Is a square bubble possible to create? Make different shapes with the pipe cleaners, such as hearts, squares, or diamonds. They will still form round bubbles when they blow into the wands. The water attempts to squeeze the gas into the smallest possible volume as it traps it. The surface tension that results produces the shape with the least amount of surface area – a sphere.


Evaporation or Popping

Children should be challenged to touch a bubble without breaking it. When bubbles dry, they pop. Children can hold bubbles without popping them if they wet their hands in the soapy solution. Make bubbles with just two hands and no wands. Immerse both hands in the bubble solution. By overlapping the thumbs and fingers of each hand, create a tight triangle and stretch a film of solution like a wand. Blow!

Exploring science in the backyard with bubbles is a quick and easy activity. After the children have completed these activities, follow their lead to conduct additional bubble investigations, further investigate physical science topics such as surface tension or evaporation, or plan additional fun outdoor activities.

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