It’s that time of year….break out those hard boiled eggs and the food coloring! What’s more fun than enjoying a vibrant egg to brighten up a meal or a snack? I don’t know about you, but eating a neon egg is slightly more fun than a plain white one. Either way, they’re delicious!
Have you ever stopped to think about the chemistry behind the process of dyeing eggs? Probably not, but this year can be the year you impress your kids with a quick science lesson while waiting on the dye to take!
Never dyed eggs before? This article has a great tutorial. Once your eggs are in the dye, set the timer, and dive into your quick science discussion.
For Younger Kids (4-10ish)
You can start by asking “did you know that you’re watching a chemical reaction right now?!?” This might garner some shocked or confused expressions (depending if they’re familiar with the idea of “chemistry” yet!). If not, you could always use the term “science experiment,” or even just explain that chemistry is a type of science.
If you have a magnifying glass, bust that thing out and have your child examine the egg in the dye. They should start seeing tiny bubbles forming on the surface of the shell. Now is your chance to wow them! Say something like “those bubbles are full of something called carbon dioxide, have you ever heard of that before?” They may know that the air they exhale contains carbon dioxide. See where the conversation goes! Ask them if they know why the bubbles are ‘magically’ appearing on the egg’s shell. This is where you explain that the vinegar you mixed with the water is an acid and it is reacting with the egg’s shell to break it down a little bit. This allows the dye molecules to “stick” to the shell a little better. Pretty cool, right?
For Older Children (preteens/teens)
Challenge them with this question: do you think dyeing this egg physically changes the egg, or chemically changes the egg?” The popular answer choice is likely “physical” because a color change can often seem superficial. Kids often associate any change in an object’s color with being a physical change (like coloring on a piece of paper). They don’t often stop and ask themselves if a new, different product has been created; or if the color change is a byproduct of a chemical reaction. Unless they look really close on the egg, they may not see the signs of a chemical reaction. Surprisingly though, dyeing an egg is a chemical process! You can point out those tiny bubbles on the eggshell and explain the reaction that’s underway. For a more in-depth look at the chemistry, you can check out THIS article.
Another fun twist for older kiddos is that you can challenge them to invent their own natural dyes. Have them look around your pantry, spice cabinet, fridge, or freezer to see if any items could be used (with your guidance) to naturally color an egg. If they’re really stumped, let them search “natural food dyes” online, or just direct them to your fruits & veggies!
No matter how deep you go with your chemistry lesson, we hope your eggs turn out beautifully and taste great. We hope your family has a restful and joyous Easter weekend!