Wednesday, July 18, 2012

how to put your kids in a bubble


this was an activity on our summer bucket list, one of the surprise activities i slipped in there for the girls. it took a short time to get the proportions and technique just right, and it was pretty darn cool once we got the hang of it. when i first heard about this idea, i had images in my head of my daughter floating into the sky, encased in a gigantic balloon-like bubble. it's not nearly that dramatic. but this is a fun summer outdoor activity, nonetheless. ... and we've done some of the trial-and-error for you!



we started with the directions posted here, however we quickly figured out our own way to do things – simpler, cheaper.

here's what you need:
  • a kiddie pool
  • a hula hoop
  • liquid dish-washing soap (e.g., Dawn, Palmolive)
  • a bubble strengthener (or two, or three)

here's what you do:

1 place the hula hoop in the pool, then spray water into the kiddie pool to just cover the bottom, enough to soak the bottom of the hula hoop.

2 add about 2-3 cups of liquid dish-washing soap and your bubble strengthener(s) (see notes below), roughly 1-1/2 cups corn syrup and 1 c sugar. mix. allow bubble solution to settle a bit, if need be.

3 have your child stand in the middle of the pool, with a very straight posture and hands at his sides or flat against the front of his body. we also successfully put both our girls inside a bubble by having the younger one hug the older one.

4 wet your hands in the bubble mixture. hold the hula hoop with both hands, spread wide apart. gradually bring the hula hoop up, keeping it as level as possible.

5 if you do it right, you'll have a rising bubble wall surrounding your kids – reaching above their heads if they're short enough – before it thins out and pops

notes and tips:

beware the breeze. even a slight gust will pop your bubble prematurely, either by blowing it into the sides of the pool or into the kids. we may consider trying this in the garage next time to cut down on that factor.

we had to twist the hula hoop occasionally to sufficiently re-coat it between attempts. the indentations on the bottom of the plastic kiddie pool were probably a factor.

practice your timing to get as high as possible – not too slow, not too fast. too slow, and the bubble will pop before you've reached the kids' knees. too fast, and the bubble will be too thin to make it much farther.

pool? yes.
hula hoop? a must.
stool? uh, no.
ditch the stool. the original directions we used also said to put a stool in the middle of the pool for the person to stand on. i'm not sure why. it worked better without having the kids stand on the stool. that's because the bubble gets thinner at the bottom as it gets higher. shorten the distance you're aiming to go, and you'll have more success! if you're child is small enough, you could even have her sit in the pool to make it easier to extend the bubble above her head.

the original directions also called for goggles, which made me think this was going to be the kind of wet fiasco that makes my water-averse daughter scream in terror. not so. my daughters' outfits stayed completely dry (and the fearful one stayed completely calm). the only thing we had to do was spray off their feet afterward – the bubble solution is rather sticky.

there are many ingredients that work as bubble strengtheners. the recipe we used called for glycerin. it took me awhile to find, but i finally found a $5-plus bottle in the first aid section of our local drug store. (apparently craft stores might also carry glycerin, used in soap-making, and probably cheaper.) but we had to use the whole bottle. and the bubble solution wasn't even strong enough at that point. so we say don't bother! a suitable substitute is corn syrup, and if you're like us, you can "shop for free" in your pantry for that. smaller bubble recipes often call for sugar. our copy of "Super Baby Food" by Ruth Yaron also lists vegetable oil as a bubble strengthener.

liquid dish-washing soap creates the bubbles.
corn syrup, sugar and glycerin are all ingredients
that can strengthen those bubbles to be super-sized
by the end of our experiment, we had used the whole bottle of glycerin (less than one cup), an unknown amount of corn syrup (what was left at the bottom of a bottle, probably no more than a cup), and a few handfuls of sugar, just in case. you may find it necessary to also throw random crap in and see what works. our estimates are listed above. regional climates likely play a role here, so don't be surprised if it doesn't work for you right away. keep trying!

i think we've now moved so far afield from the original directions that they're no longer relevant. even the proportions the recipe called for seemed way off. a total of 5-1/2 cups of liquid wasn't nearly enough to soak the hula hoop, at least in our pool. my hunch, though, is that everyone's experience will be slightly different depending on the type of pool, hula hoop and ingredients you have on hand, plus the weather.

hopefully our experience gives you a good head start!




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