Inside: Did you know that you can use science to separate different colors in the coating of Skittles? This fun science activity is bright and beautiful and a real hit with kids! Scroll down to the science section to download your FREE science printables.
This is one of those classical science activities that your kids must experience before they’re allowed to grow up to adulthood.
We do it every year. It all started the day after Halloween one year. Our neighbors decided to give out a lot of Skittles, and we had to find a good use for them. We used them for science, and over the years, it became our Halloween tradition.
But the time of the year doesn’t matter. Summer. Winter. If at any point, a bag of Skittles makes its way into your home, you have an opportunity for some gorgeous fun!
Although your kids might initially be appalled at the idea of “wasting” candy, throw some science at them. According to the facts that came out of a recent lawsuit, Skittles candy has the highest amount of dyes from all other candy in the world. Scientifically proven to be detrimental to our health, artificial dyes that create those happy colors introduce carcinogens and disrupt our immune systems.
Plus, a pack of Skittles has 47 grams of sugar. Bear in mind that health experts recommend consuming at most 25 g of sugar per day. Your kids might be rolling their eyes, but teaching them health awareness will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
How to Do Science – It’s all about Questions
A time-tested way to engage kids and help them turn on their critical thinking is to have them make predictions before they even begin.
What do you think is going to happen?
What makes you think that?
Follow their replies with:
That’s an interesting idea!
I never thought of that!
But of course, only say that if you really never thought of that. Children are great lie detectors!
Another reason I like to start with questions is so that instead of me setting a purpose and dictating what is going to happen, kids can learn to set their own purpose and look for the information they need. This is more of what “real” scientists do, isn’t it?
Invite kids to begin by making predictions and thinking about what’s going to happen ahead of time. In this scenario, the outcome doesn’t even matter that much because there is so much learning going on. Their attention is engaged, and general comprehension of the subject is enhanced regardless of whether their predictions are correct or if it went according to plan. It’s another great lesson from science: being “wrong” means you’re learning – celebrate!
You can always enhance your experience of these science experiments by downloading our scientific printables. There are general ones about the Scientific process and particular ones for each science experiment. You can find access to all our printables in the Free Library of Resources, and you can subscribe here.
What you need
Hot or warm water
What to do
1. Make a pattern
Create the same pattern with Skittles candy on both plates.
We placed six candies of each color next to each other. You don’t have to make a pattern, but we find that it makes the experiment more fun. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you have the same pattern on both plates so that the only variable you compare is the speed with which the candy dissolves.
2. Add water
Slowly pour hot or warm water into the middle of one plate. In the pic below, it’s the right plate. Then, slowly pour cold water into the middle of the other plate (for us it’s the left plate).
The reaction happens really fast. By the time I added the water, told my kids not to shake the table, and grabbed the camera, the colors spread impressively far. The gorgeous rainbow of colors is a treat to the eyes!
3. Compare the two samples
Was there a difference between hot/warm water and cold water?
As you can see in the previous pic, the right plate (hot water) was far ahead of the left plate (cold water). Why is that? You can read all about it in the Science section below.
Some additional questions to ask kids:
How long did it take the colors to reach the center of the plate?
How long does it take for Skittles candy to dissolve completely?
Why do you think colors do not mix?
The Science of Skittles
The main ingredient in Skittles is sugar. When sugar comes in contact with water, it starts dissolving. In other words, individual molecules of sugar float freely in the water and seem to disappear. This is not a chemical reaction, though, because the sugar is still sugar and will taste sweet. The hot water causes sugar to dissolve slightly faster than cold water because molecules move faster in warmer temperatures.
The movement of color across the plate is caused by diffusion. In the process of diffusion, a liquid with lots of sugar (around the candy) moves towards the liquid with a lower concentration of sugar (middle of the plate). The movement stops once equilibrium is reached, and sugar is distributed evenly throughout the plate. The tendency of substances to spread themselves evenly throughout a space, if not prevented by other forces, is part of a fascinating process called entropy.
And what about the colorful dyes?
As the water moves across the plate, it drags dyes with it, but they don’t mix because of water stratification. “Strati” means layers. We can clearly see colorful layers in our Skittles activity. Stratification refers to the process of separating into layers, often based on relative density or temperature.
In this case, each dye has its own blend of chemicals and creates a water solution with different chemical properties. Different properties (for example, densities) create a barrier that prevents the colors from mixing.
Need Science Printables?
Do you need scientific method science pages to go along with this experiment? Download them below!
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