Last Friday we went to the Science Festival exhibition at the City Art Centre. There were activities and exhibitions on each floor aimed primarily at kids of varying ages. One of the exhibitions we enjoyed the most was the bubbles workshop. Here they had a variety of bubble experiments to interact and play with. I noticed on the wall a simple recipe for making your own homemade bubble solution and thought we’d give it a go. The bubble wands seemed simple enough to make as well and after experimenting with some different materials we had success and were soon making our own big bubbles in the garden.
Bubble Solution Recipe
- 250ml washing up liquid
- 250ml glycerol (or glycerine)
- 4l Water
Add all the ingredients to a tub and mix well. I’d recommend getting a wide but reasonably shallow tub, wide enough to lay your wand in. It only needs to be a few inches deep. You can get under bed storage boxes which are perfect and usually come with a lid which has the added benefit of preventing your bubble solution evaporating if you want to reuse it the next day.
Glycerol (or glycerine) can be purchased from pharmacies. It’s used for a variety of things from soothing sore throats to a laxative. You’ll want the liquid stuff rather than the suppositories! Glycerol acts to restrict the evaporation of water which in turn means your bubbles last longer. I’d encourage you to experiment with different ratios of glycerin to find the optimum balance. If your bubbles are popping to quickly try increasing the amount of glycerin in the mixture.
This recipe can be scaled down or up depending on how much bubble solution you actually want. I only ended up making 2l which was plenty for an afternoon.
Making bubble wands
- Garden wire
- Cloth rags and/or garden twine
- Duck tape
- Cardboard boxes or used bubble wrap
Making a simple bubble wand is fairly straight forward. Cut a length of garden wire, bend half of it into a loop and twist it off so you have a magnifying glass shape. This works ok but if you think about bubble wands that come with bubble bottles, they usually have ridges running all around the head. My guess is these are to increase the surface area of the ring so that it holds more mixture. Likewise the wands at the science festival had some sort of cloth or string wrapped around the head.
I tried a few things and found that strips of cloth or a length of string wound tightly around the length of the wand’s head improved the bubbles the wand produced. Experiment with different materials to find one that works best for you. I started of by making a small amount of bubble mix and then making normal sized bubble wands to get an idea of what did and didn’t work.
Likewise, you really need a handle to grip the wands well. I made simple handles by wrapping junk – as it happened bits of folded easter egg boxes – around the wire handle and then strapping it down with duck tape. Old bubble wrap or padded envelopes or any old junk that you can squash into a handle shape ought to work fine, or if you want something more permanent you could make a wooden handle with a length of dowling and drill a hole down the centre to insert the wire.
Once you’ve got everything figured out with normal sized wands the real fun is in making big bubble wands and big bubbles. You’ll need to make sure the wire you are using is reasonably stiff (but not so much that you can bend and twist it) so that it doesn’t flop too much when you scale up the wands. We made wand about the diameter of a breakfast bowl. At this size you don’t need to blow into them to produce bubbles; dip the wand into the bubble mix remove carefully and then gently wave the wand through the air. A long bubble should form behind it.
Fun things to do
- Try making bubbles by drawing the wand upwards out of the mix. See if you can make an arch by pulling it up out of the mix and then arcing it back towards the ground.
- Draw the wand through the air so a bubble starts to form then twist the wand to cut the bubble free.
- Try making the head of the wands different shapes