I’m not a big fan of cabbage except for when it’s used for science! Food science is super cool and is awesome for kids. This isn’t the sweetest smelling science experiment we have done, but once you get past the smell this cabbage science experiment is fascinating. Amazing chemistry for kids with a simple food. So over here we say, don’t stop playing (learning) with your food!
CABBAGE SCIENCE EXPERIMENT
CABBAGE PH INDICATOR SCIENCE PROJECT
The pH scale is a fascinating scale that identifies how close something is to an acid and how close it is to an alkaline material. There are tons of fun pH science experiments for kids out there, but one of the most thrilling and satisfying is the cabbage pH indicator science experiment.
In this experiment, kids learn how cabbage can be used to test liquids of varying acid levels. Depending on the pH of the liquid, the cabbage turns various shades of pink, purple, or green! It’s incredibly cool to watch, and the kids love it! It’s a MUST try for a classic science experiment.
This makes a great elementary age science activity (and up!), but adult supervision and assistance is still required!
CABBAGE JUICE SCIENCE SUPPLIES
Grab a head or two of red cabbage and let’s get started! Even if your kids swear they hate cabbage, they will be loving it (at least for science sake) after this awesome cabbage chemistry experiment.
Several jars or small containers
Lemons (grab a few for a couple extra science activities you will find below)
Other acids and bases to test (see more items to test below)
pH test strips (optional but older kids will enjoy the added activity)
HOW TO MAKE CABBAGE JUICE PH INDICATOR
Setting up your cabbage science experiment takes a bit of prep work. This is an adult assisted science experiments due to using knives and boiling water.
Please keep in mind the individual abilities of the kids working on this experiment. This science experiment is not intended for preschool science.
You will first start by cutting your red cabbage into small pieces. The cabbage juice indicator can be prepped ahead of time, but I love when you can involve kids in the whole process!
Place your cut up cabbage in a medium saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. After the 5 minutes, cover and let it rest for 30 minutes.
CABBAGE CHEMISTRY FOR KIDS
While you’re waiting it’s a great time to talk about acids and bases!
What’s an acid? On a pH scale acids usually register above a 7 and are brighter in color when you use a piece of litmus. If you ask the kids about what types of things around the house are acidic, they might say vinegar or lemons. An acid is usually recognized as something with a sour or sharp taste.
Here’s a simple pH scale for kids with a little extra information. Plus it gives you a few more items to test once you have made cabbage juice pH indicator!
Please take care when mixing different items into your cabbage pH indicator juice. Adult supervision is recommended at all times. This NOT an edible science experiment.
Go ahead and carefully pour the liquid into the jars (you can dilute the cabbage juice and it will still work)
USING CABBAGE PH INDICATOR
Now it’s time to test out the pH of a few different items that are both liquids and solids. You can find even more items to test out. Depending on your kids interest levels and needs, you could turn this into a huge science experiment. This cabbage chemistry experiment also makes a terrific science fair project.
Before your kids start testing out different liquids and solids, have them make predictions about what they think will happen. You can use our scientific method information here to help them set up this cabbage science activity as an experiment (FREE printable too)!
Why is red cabbage so special and why does it work so well for this chemistry experiment?
Red cabbage contains anthocyanin which is a water soluble pigment. This pigment changes color when it is mixed with an acid or a base. More red when mixed with an acid and more green when mixed with a base.
CABBAGE JUICE AND LEMONS
Squeeze lemon juice into one jar. It will turn red because lemons are acidic. What else can you do with lemons? We have a couple fun ideas for exploring fun chemistry with this fruit!
CABBAGE JUICE SCIENCE WITH BAKING SODA
You can test a wide range of materials not just acids like lemons. You can also test a base or an alkaline like baking soda. The color the cabbage juice turns will be on the different end of the pH scale! Put a teaspoon of baking soda into a cabbage juice jar. Notice what happens! The cabbage juice turns green.
If you have experimented with baking soda and vinegar science activities, your kids may already know that baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid. Vinegar is also a great liquid to use to test with your cabbage juice!
EXPERIMENT WITH: Baking Soda and Vinegar Science
Test other liquids to compare whether they are acids or bases. To extend the activity, use pH test strips to determine the exact pH of each liquid. You can check out this pH scale for more liquids and solids to test.
DIY: Make your own pH strips by soaking coffee filters in the cabbage juice and hang to dry, cut in strips!
Kids will have a blast testing a variety of kitchen pantry ingredients with their cabbage juice pH indicator science project! You may even need to buy more red cabbage the next time you go to the store! Food science is cool.
What other kinds of science can you do with food? We are in the processing of trying out all sorts of edible science activities this year as well. Although this cabbage science experiment is NOT edible, it’s an awesome learning experience for kid’s chemistry!
You could also try these fun edible science ideas…