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Chemistry for Kids

Chemistry for Kids: Homemade Science Experiments and Activities Inspired by Awesome Chemists, Past and Present

Liz Lee Heinecke
Quarry Books
128 pp.
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If you were to choose 25 discoveries to document the progress of chemistry through millennia, what would you pick? In Chemistry for Kids, Liz Lee Heinecke takes us on such a journey, using familiar objects and simple scientific instruments to create straightforward chemistry experiments that chart the field’s evolution over time.

Each chapter is centered on a different experiment and begins with a vivid illustration that highlights a scientist and his or her work. A few paragraphs of engagingly written introduction are followed by colorful photographs of youngsters demonstrating the steps of the experiment. A brief explanation of the chemistry that underlies each experiment wraps up each chapter.

The author’s decision to include many women, even those not officially known as “scientists,” is most welcome. Marie Curie’s process of elemental precipitation, by which she extracted radium, is modeled (much more safely) with food coloring and rosemary leaves. Meanwhile, the environmental spread of the insecticide DDT that Rachel Carson brought attention to is visualized by the diffusion of food coloring through gelatin. Agnes Pockels, a pioneer of surface science, found inspiration in the bubbles that formed as she washed dishes. Using dish soap, milk, and food coloring, we can see for ourselves how surface tension drives the formation of colorfully abstract patterns.

The topics covered range broadly. Some chapters detail things we think of as part of everyday life (for example, soap or carbonated drinks). Other chapters touch on frontiers, including medicinal plant chemistry and crystallography. Older children could do many of these experiments on their own; younger children might need supervision.

About the author

The reviewer is a senior editor at Science.