A quick and easy dancing rice activity for kids

Do you want to see some amazing science in action? Check out this dancing rice experiment! It is a lot of fun to do at home, and it is a great way to teach kids about the scientific process.

In this blog post, we will discuss how to do the experiment and what you can expect to see.

We will also provide some tips on how to make the experience even more fun for everyone involved!

Main photo: Mott Children’s Hospital

Why try this magic dancing rice science experiment?

This experiment is a great way to bring science to life! Kids will be able to make and test their hypothesis about what will happen when the ingredients are mixed together.

They’ll be super impressed (and possibly very surprised) to see the rice start to jump about and dance before their very eyes!

If you’ve got kids at home (or in your class) who love to see cool science experiments, we guarantee they’ll enjoy this one.

It is also very simple to do, and it only requires a few household items that you probably already have.

dancing rice science experiment ingredients

Photo: Green Kid Crafts

Dancing rice baking soda experiment materials

If you are ready to get started, here is what you will need:

  • A 1/4 cup of instant uncooked rice
  • A tablespoon of baking soda (also known as bicarbonate of soda – they are the same thing!)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of white vinegar (other kinds of vinegar will also work, but they may add a tint to the mixture that makes it harder to see what is happening)
  • A few drops of food coloring (optional)
  • A bowl or container to mix everything together in (you’ll want to opt for a clear one like a glass jar so you can see the experiment clearly)
  • Water

If you have everything that you need, great! Let’s move on to the instructions for this baking soda and vinegar chemical reaction.

dancing rice experiment explanation

Photo: Messy Learning Kids

How to do this baking soda and vinegar science experiment

Now that you have gathered all of your materials, it is time to get started! Here are the step-by-step instructions for this science experiment:

  1. Lay out your materials so you have everything to hand. Put on protective clothing, including goggles or other protective eyewear.

    It’s important to always take safety precautions seriously even when doing simple science experiments with household ingredients at home.
  2. Start by adding the uncooked rice to your bowl or container.
  3. Next, add enough water to fill up the container so it is about 2/3 full. Add the baking soda.
  4. Add food coloring at this point if you want to add some color to your mixture. Just a few drops should be enough.

    Stir and mix completely to spread the colour evenly throughout the mixture.
  5. Now it is time to add the vinegar! Slowly pour it in and stir everything together.
  6. You should start to see the rice grains begin to dance and jump around as the chemical reaction takes place.
  7. Now it is time to sit back and enjoy the science show!

    The dancing rice will continue to jump and move around for a few minutes before the reaction starts to slow down.
  8. When the reaction has slowed down, you can add more vinegar to restart it and see the rice dance again.
add rice to the mixture

Photo: Buggy and Buddy

Help! My dancing rice experiment won’t work

Don’t panic if it doesn’t work the first time round! When science experiments don’t go as planned it can be a great opportunity to explore troubleshooting and problem-solving with your kids.

If you’re having trouble getting this science experiment to work properly, here are a couple of things to consider:

  • Have you used uncooked rice? Cooked rice will contain a lot of absorbed water and will be much heavier.
  • Have you used instant rice? Although other kinds of rice may work, instant rice is often lighter. The lighter the grains, the more they will dance!
  • Have you used the right quantities and ratios of baking soda and vinegar? If not, the experiment may not work properly as not enough bubbles will be produced.
  • Have you used baking powder by mistake? One of the common mistakes that happen with vinegar and baking soda experiments is that baking powder is accidentally used.

Baking powder contains baking soda alongside other ingredients. It is not pure baking soda and therefore may stop the chemical reaction from happening properly.

A quick dancing rice experiment explanation

The science behind this experiment is pretty simple. The vinegar reacts with the baking soda to create carbon dioxide gas bubbles.

This reaction happens because baking soda (also called sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda) is a basic (alkaline) compound.

White vinegar is on the other side of the pH scale – it is acidic as it contains acetic acid.

When they mix a chemical reaction happens that produces lots of carbon dioxide gas (the same gas that makes fizzy drinks fizzy!).

Hydrogen ions in the white vinegar react with sodium and bicarbonate ions in the baking soda.

This gas is what makes the rice appear to dance around in the container! It is less dense (lighter) than the liquid it is in, so it floats up to the top. It attaches to the rice grains, which means it takes them with it.

When the gas bubbles reach the surface of the mixture they escape into the air. The grains have lost their little life jackets, so the rice sinks back down to the bottom!

The process repeats itself until the chemical reaction is over.

When the food coloring is added, it helps to make the bubbles more visible so you can see them better.

Breann Castle (@breann_tiiu) / Twitter

Photo: Breann Castle

How to get the most out of making rice dance

If you want to take things a step further with this science experiment, you could try using different kinds of vinegar (like red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar) or even food coloring and seeing if that makes any difference to the experiment.

You could also try changing the ratio of baking soda and vinegar to see if this makes a difference to the results.

Kids can use a timer to time how long the rice ‘dance’ for and use this as a way to compare results when they make changes to their scientific method. When the bubbles stop making the rice dance, they can stop their timer.

Have fun experimenting with this fun science activity! And don’t forget to share your results with us in the comments below.

If your kids love magical science experiments, we think they’ll love this magic jumping foil activity. We guarantee they’ll be impressed with this very cool science!