Family Fun

Cooking with Kids: Candy Science

From the November 2011 edition
When asked whether they thought Starburst candy contained oil, Emily Moore, 9, and Caitlin Abel, 8, were quick to answer. 
“No. Who puts oil in candy?” Emily said. “That’s gross.”
Caitlin, on the other hand, predicted that the experiment they were about to perform would reveal that Starbursts do contain oil.
The girls — with the help of Caitlin’s mother, Donna — popped a few pieces of the chewy candy onto a microwavable plate and heated it for a minute. When Caitlin spotted the telltale waxy-looking spots, she couldn’t help but celebrate a little.
“Mystery solved,” she said, doing a little dance. “It has oil.”
The girls along with their siblings spent a recent afternoon experimenting on candy. The play date at the Abel’s Columbus home was fun and educational.
“Kids are naturally curious,” said Abel, an assistant teacher at St. Catherine’s preschool in Columbus. “They really got into it.”
Conor Abel, 14 dissolved Skittles in water to create a rainbow. Marcus Moore, 6, and Carson Moore, 3, helped the girls determine whether Pixy Stix and Lemon Heads contained acid.
Abel anticipates another scientific play date after the kids go trick-or-treating this Halloween. She figures it will be a good way to use up the candy and expose the kids to more scientific concepts.
The experiments can help kids become more interested in science, said Loralee Leavitt, who runs the website
“In my family, doing candy experiments has made us all a little more inquisitive,” Leavitt said from Kirkland, Wash. “I'm a little more likely to let the kids try out some weird experiment, or to find answers about some phenomenon, whether or not it relates to candy experiments.”
Here are some of the experiments that the Abels and the Moores did from Leavitt’s website.


The Acid Test

  1. Grown-up: Fill a container with a half cup of warm water.
  2. Kid: Add several Pixy Stix or Lemon Heads.
  3. Kid: Stir the mixture to help the candy dissolve.
  4. Grown-up: Fill a spoon with baking soda.
  5. Kid: Dump the baking soda into the candy mixture.
  6. Kid: Watch for bubbles, which signal the presence of acid.

The Oil Test

  1. Kid: Unwrap one or two Starburst.
  2. Kid: Place the candy on a microwave-safe plate.
  3. Grown-up: Put the plate in the microwave and heat it for about a minute. The candy should melt but not burn.
  4. Grown-up: Remove the plate from the microwave.
  5. Kid: Look for signs that the candy has oil.


Photos by Eric Wagner