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Pepper Germs Experiment

This activity will help your little ones understand why it’s so important to wash our hands and how soap cleans our hands!

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Activity PDF

Experiment with soap and pepper to see how soap really works!

Now is a great time to teach children why washing our hands is so important! They can see exactly how soap works by repelling the pepper in the water. 

✨ Want to learn hand washing best practices? We’ve put together this handwashing guide for childcare. Thoroughly washing your hands should last 20 seconds (singing “Happy Birthday” twice).

🎵 Kids songs to sing while washing your hands: our favourites include Mary Had a Little Lamb, Row Your Boat, and If You’re Happy and You Know It (Wash Your Hands!).  

Materials

For this activity you will need:

2 Shallow Bowls

Water

Pepper

Dish soap

Learning Outcomes

Domain

Cognitive

Skills

Questioning and Observing

Indicators:

Asking “why” to determine causes 

Asking questions that can be answered through observation

Using all senses to gather information while observing 

Focusing their observation on details

Instructions

Step 1:

Talk to your kiddos about germs and ask them if they know why it’s important to wash their hands. 

Step 2:

Fill one of your bowls with a thin layer of soap. In your second bowl, fill it with water and sprinkle pepper across the surface of the water of one of the bowls in a thin layer. As you do this explain that in the bowl the pepper represents the germs. 

Step 3:

Ask one of the kiddos to dip their finger in the bowl. Ask all of the kids if they noticed that the germs moved. The black pepper will stick to their finger tip. Ask the kiddo to look at their finger. Ask them if there are germs on their finger. 

Step 4:

Ask the rest of the kiddos ‘what should we do when there are germs on our fingers?’, and get the kiddo with the pepper to dip their finger in the bowl with the soap. 

Step 5:

Ask the kiddo to dip their finger back into the bowl with the pepper. The pepper will magically move away from the soapy finger. Ask the kiddos if they noticed the germs move. Ask the kiddo if there is pepper (or ‘germs’) on their finger.     

🧪 Create multiple experiments to extend this activity! Use different liquids and food items around the house to see how they react together. Our favourites include skittles and milk, lemon juice and salt etc. — the possibilities are endless!

Playful Questions

What happens to the pepper when we drop soap in the bowl?

What happens to the pepper if we put more/less soap?

Why do you think the pepper moves when we put soap in the bowl?

What happens to the pepper if we use different kinds of soap (bubble bath, bar soap, hand soap etc.)?