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Basics of a Chemical Reaction | Science For Kids

Our September STEM box is all about “Creating Chemistry.” We'll be doing fun experiments with various chemical reactions. But what exactly is a chemical reaction?

Chemical reactions are all around us in our day-to-day life. For example, you stop a chemical reaction every time you brush your teeth! By removing plaque and bacteria from your teeth, you keep the bacteria from breaking down sugars into acid, which eats away at your teeth.

Even the cleaning supplies in your house use chemical reactions to keep things clean. Since our upcoming STEM box is full of great chemical reactions, let's talk about how those happen and what makes a chemical reaction work.

What is a Chemical Reaction?

A chemical reaction is when one or more thing (called a “substance”) is made into another substance or product. For something to be a chemical reaction, there needs to be a change on a base level. Everything is made of atoms, and chemical reactions change how the atoms of things are put together. For example, water freezing into ice isn’t a chemical reaction because ice is still water. Ice freezing into water is a physical reaction because the water only changes forms.

Cool Chemical Reactions at Home

A good example of a chemical reaction is how bacteria gives you cavities. Bacteria can eat the leftover sugars that stick to your teeth when you eat sweet foods. If you don't brush your teeth, the bacteria turn these sugars into acid. This is a chemical reaction because it turns things from one thing to something else. This acid breaks down the coating on your teeth, called enamel. This is why brushing your teeth is so important.

One of the activities in our STEM kit shows us how to make old pennies bright and shiny. This chemical process uses acid (like the stuff that gives you cavities) to clean up pennies. Pennies are made out of copper. When copper is left in the air, it goes through a chemical reaction called oxidization (ox-id-eyes-ate-shun). This gives the pennies a dark, dull color. The acid in the lemon juice, vinegar, or ketchup removes the oxidization, leaving behind a shiny copper penny!

Chemical Reactions in the Kitchen

There are some cool chemical reactions in your house that you can see every day. For example, you're watching a chemical reaction if you have a stove in your home with flames! Fire is a chemical reaction that takes fuel (like gas or wood) and makes heat. This is different from a physical reaction because the fuel you start with is used up or turns into ashes.

Baking soda combined with vinegar is another cool chemical reaction. Baking soda and vinegar are used in baking, and you probably have them in your house. When baking soda and vinegar mix, they cause a chemical reaction that makes carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is what we breathe out. If you combine these 2 ingredients in a bottle and place a balloon on top, the balloon will inflate! This is because the carbon dioxide gas made in the experiment needs somewhere to go. It rises out of the bottle, into the balloon causing the balloon to expand!

If you want to check out some more cool chemical reactions, our September STEM box is full of fun experiments. The box has everything you need to make a penny shiny again, learn all about baking soda and baking powder, and more!


GIGIL STEM Subscription Boxes bring STEM Education to your doorstep, with 5 activities each month and all the supplies you need to complete them! Just open up your STEM Kit and go (easy)! We are also Mom's Choice Award and Parents' Picks winners!

Ready to start learning? Subscribe today and your first STEM Kit ships within 3-5 days!

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