Exploding Pop Rockets

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This 4th of July twist on those classic Alka-Seltzer pop rockets is a must-try kids’ science experiment your kids will beg to repeat over and over again. The easy kids’ science project is perfect for the 4th of July, New Year’s Eve or just because!

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This kids’ science experiment uses antacids which can contain aspirin so make sure to inform your kids that it is a medicine and should not normally be played with. Also, make sure to clean up any remaining bits of antacid tablets – especially if you have toddlers in your home.

Getting Ready

To prep, I gathered together a few supplies:

  • Mini M&M tubes
  • Antacid tablets
  • Cardboard (cereal boxes work great)
  • Foil
  • Glue gun (not pictured)
  • Decorations (stickers, washi tape, painters tape)
  • Bottle of water
  • Small ball of clay (optional)

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It was time to start this American-themed kids’ science experiment!  To build the rockets, I first emptied and peeled the label off the M&M tubes.  Next, I cut the tab that holds the cap on the tube so the cap could be completely removed.  Then, I used an empty cereal box and my hot glue gun to make mini cones to top off the rockets

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I called A over and handed her the stickers and tape so she could decorate her rockets.  While she was busy happily peeling stickers, I covered the cones with aluminum foil to finish off the tops and to provide them with a little more protection. When A was done, I hot glued the cones to the bottom (the side opposite the cap) of the M&M tubes and we were ready to make the rockets fly.

Such a fun kids' science experiment!! Pop rockets. {Playdough to Plato}

Exploding Pop Rockets

We gathered our rockets, the antacid tablets, and a bottle of water and headed outside.  This activity can get pretty messy, especially if you are like us and launch your rocket dozens of times.  I placed the small ball of clay in the lid to hold the antacid tablet in place so that A could close the lid without starting the fizz until the rocket was flipped right side up.

Such a fun, low prep kids' science experiment!! {Playdough to Plato}

Next, I poured about a teaspoon of water into the rocket and handed the rocket and lid to a nervous A.  She placed the lid snugly on the rocket, flipped the rocket onto the wooden board I had placed on the grass and ran for cover.

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The first reactions happened quickly giving A only a few seconds to run away before it popped and shot up about 3 feet in the air.

Pop Rockets. Awesome science experiment for kids!!.jpg

As the tablet disintegrated, it took longer for the pressure to build, giving her more time to hop away. Initially, my daughter was nervous about exploding rockets until she realized how harmless it really was.  Now, she can’t wait to show her grandparents and cousins how to make popping rockets when we visit them for July 4th.

The Science Behind It

When water and antacid mix, carbon dioxide gas is produced. By placing the lid on the rocket, you are trapping those gas bubbles inside. As more and more bubbles are produced, the pressure inside the rocket builds, creating enough force to break the seal on the lid.  There is so much force from the built up pressure that it launches the rocket into the air.

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45 Comments

  1. My kids just discovered pop rockets at a local library program. We are making them for the 4th too! BTW You can also use a quarter of a tablet an an old film canister for a more delayed “launch “. Love the foil cone idea. Your science projects rock Noirin!

  2. This is brilliant!! I just used some antacid tablets for another science experiment so have them handy and can get cracking on this one. My little guy is going to love it, can’t wait!

  3. I love this idea but my antacid pills don’t generate enough gas to get the explosion. Perhaps the generic Target version doesn’t make the cut… Any recommendations for the best brand? thanks.

    1. I’m thinking it’s the container not the antacid tablets. We made 2 rockets with the m&m tube and one didn’t have a tight seal. Some of the gas leaked out and the pressure didn’t build enough to blast the top off. I’d try another container first and possibly doubling up in the tablets. Good luck!

  4. Awesome! I’ve been wanting to do this type of experiment with the kids, but the version I remember needed a film canister…like I have those anymore.

  5. Hi! Love this old idea made into new with the M&M mini tubes. Which size of M&M mini tubes did you use? I couldn’t quite tell from the picture. Were they the 1.08 oz or the bigger sharing size of 1.77 oz? Thanks!

    1. Thanks Lisa! We used the smaller m&m container but I think both should work. The smaller the tube, the quicker the pressure will build, but I think using a whole tablet should create enough pressure in either.

  6. can you substitute the antacid tablets? if so, with what?

    1. You could get similar results using baking soda and vinegar. Fill the rocket with a small amount of regular white vinegar. Then add a spoonful of baking soda to the inside of the top. When ready, flip the top, quickly snap it in place, and place it upright to launch. If done correctly the baking soda will have mixed with the vinegar to create carbon dioxide gas. As more gas is formed it should pop and the rocket should launch.

  7. Oh disappointed in this experiment. Did not work at all I had a tight seal I had three antacid tablets 1 teaspoon of water there was no gas is build up at all. My fourth-graders were so disappointed

    1. Hmmm…. you may want to check your antacid tablets if they aren’t making any gases then there would be nothing to build up. If you place one of them in a cup of water and see bubbles forming then it is producing gas for sure. If the gas isn’t building up pressure in your container then the seal isn’t as tight as it needs to be. We had several of the smaller M&M tubes and one didn’t work because there wasn’t the best seal. We could hear an see the gasses leaking out one side of the seal. hope this helps!

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