Chemistry can sound intimidating and scary, but it doesn’t have to be! There are so many fun chemical reactions you can introduce your elementary and middle school students to before they ever have to face a high school chemistry course. Soapmaking is a wonderful chemical reaction and great for teaching science and math, plus you have a usable product when finished!
When dealing with any type of chemical, safety is very important.
- Using safety glasses protects the eyes from splashes or accidentally poking someone in the eye. These are necessary in soapmaking.
- I suggest the parent get a pair of chemical resistant gloves to handle the lye.
- I like to use a half gallon glass jar on a cookie sheet for mixing the lye. And a wooden or silicon spoon!
Lye can be very dangerous and should be handled with caution, preferably by an adult. It gets hot very quickly and will burn! This makes great discussion, but shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Now that you have your safety equipment, what other supplies do you need for making soap? You can be as simple or as creative as you want here. The basics are:
- Lye – also known as it’s chemical name, Sodium Hydroxide.
- a fat source is also needed. Your recipe may include olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil or an assortment of other oils.
- Soap molds – this could be as simple as a cardboard box lined with parchment paper, a homemade wooden model, or store bought silicone molds. Here is an article on choosing the perfect mold for you.
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Kitchen scale – I use this model in my own kitchen!
Making soap is fun and productive, but you also can teach your kids to love science and math with activities like soapmaking.
When measuring ingredients, especially when using the scale, take the opportunity to talk math. How many ounces are in a pound? How many teaspoons in a tablespoon? How many tablespoons in a cup? You get the picture! You can also talk about doubling or halving a recipe. Show the importance of those multiplication and division skills!
To be able to explain the soapmaking process, your kids need to understand the vocabulary. You and your student can look these up in the dictionary and learn how they apply to the soapmaking process. Here is a list of words to start with:
- Chloralkali process
The Soap Chemical
Lye, or Sodium Hydroxide, is your soap chemical. You can order it from soap supply companies, amazon and sometimes in your drain cleaner aisle of your local grocery store. The ingredient list has to list only sodium hydroxide, nothing else.
Eden’s Garden’s has this great article on what is lye and why we need it in soap making. It’s worth checking out.
It would be fun to create a soapmaking journal or notebook. We use composition books at our home a lot. The student can write out the vocabulary words and definitions. They can record their hypothesis in the scientific method. Science journals are also a great place for drawing pictures of the process. If you don’t have an artist in your midst, printing pictures taken during the process is a great recording tool too!
More Information on Soapmaking
Since the purpose of this post was to expose you to the idea that chemistry is all around us, I didn’t go into great detail about the soapmaking process. So many amazing bloggers have already done that for you! Here a few great ones:
- Practical Self Reliance: Honey & Goat’s Milk Soap
- Simple Life Mom: Soap Making for Beginners
- Tweak & Tinker: Using a Pringle Can as a Mold
Share what you learned!
I hope you will share your stories, journals and pictures with me! I would love to see the creations you make. Soapmaking is so much fun and really simple. One batch of soap will last my large family a year! You can see how we used this in our high school chemistry course here!
I was honored to be included in the DIY Summer Camp Activities Roundup! Check it out for an amazing roundup of fun summer activities!