Science ideas for young children: Hot chocolate experiments

The cold weather makes an ideal time for hot chocolate. Here are some ways to experiment with hot chocolate.

I love hot chocolate, and most kids do too. Have you ever thought about what science can be done with hot chocolate? The following are some simple experiments Michigan State University Extension recommends to try with children. They can be done within a family, in a daycare setting, as part of a school activity, a 4-H club or with any group working with young children. Remember to ask lots of questions and let kids come up with answers or experiments before you throw in your ideas.

1. Create your own hot chocolate recipe

Have you ever thought about how hot chocolate is made? Ask kids what they think goes into hot chocolate and if they can make it from scratch on their own, without looking up a recipe first. Try your best to let the kids be creative and not give them ideas. Carefully measure what you put in so you can re-create your “perfect” recipe once it is created. Have kids use all their senses to describe what the “perfect” cup of hot chocolate is like. How does it taste? How does it look? How does it smell? How does it feel in your mouth? What would you do to create that? How might one person’s “perfect” hot chocolate be different than another’s? Do you think adults might like a different type of hot chocolate than kids? Why? Can hot chocolate ever get too chocolatey? After the kids have tried their own recipes, look up some recipes and see how they compare.

2. Experiment with dissolving cocoa mixes into water or milk

Is there a maximum amount of hot cocoa mix you can mix into a coffee mug? Does the temperature of the water or milk you add affect how much cocoa mix you could add? When does the liquid become a solid, if ever? What are the differences between liquid and solid? If you baked really thick hot chocolate in the oven, what would happen? Do some of the individual ingredients in hot cocoa dissolve differently in water?

3. Experiment with different mugs

Does the cup that hot chocolate is served in effect the taste? Try serving hot chocolate in different vessels and see if there is a difference. Do some cups keep the cocoa warm longer? Why?

4. Experiment with different temperatures

Is there a proper temperature to serve hot chocolate? Does temperature change the flavor? Why or why not?

5. Compare effects of caffeine or sugar before and after drinking hot cocoa

Does the caffeine or sugar in chocolate affect your brain? Try playing a brain-teaser game or even a video game before and after having a mug of hot chocolate and see if there is a change in your performance.

Have fun, enjoy your experiments and try some new ways of looking at hot chocolate. 

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