play dough, either store-bought or homemade (Note: There are many recipes for homemade playdough online.)
vinegar colored with red food coloring
small measuring cup
Ask your child, “What is a volcano?” Help her understand that a volcano looks like a mountain that shoots out very hot rock, smoke, and ash. “Where does all this hot stuff come from?” Answer: Inside the Earth. Explain that the inside of our planet is SUPER hot, so hot that rocks there are melted. This melted rock under the surface is called magma — and is more than 1000 degrees. For comparison, you can point out that boiling water — is only a couple hundred degrees (F). When this melted rock (magma) blasts out of a volcano — it name changes, and is now known as lava. Help your child understand that lava and magma are the same substance — it’s just that lava is what it is called when it escapes. This blasting out of lava is called an “eruption.”
Show the Cross-section picture of a volcano, and point out all the parts: lava, magma, steam, and so on.
Show your child the video clip of a volcano eruption from Dinosaur Train, above.
Explain that he is going to make a model of a volcano eruption. Have your child make a mountain out of playdough and use her thumb to press down an indentation at the top. Then have your child use a small spoon to put at least a teaspoon of baking soda in the top of the volcano. Next have her use a small measuring cup to SLOWLY pour a small amount of red vinegar on the baking soda. Have them look closely and describe what they see. (NOTE: As an alternative to playdough, vary this experiment by creating a volcano out of a pile of dirt or sand.)