Beautiful Bubble Iridescence

What You Need:

  • Black or dark-colored construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Disposable round aluminum pie pan or any small shallow dish that you don’t mind getting nail polish on!
  • Table in a well ventilated room or, ideally, outside
  • Water
  • Clear nail polish, such as a top coat
  • Popsicle stick, disposable chopstick, or pencil you can spare
  • Pieces of light-colored construction paper, glue (optional)

What You Do:

  1. Help your child cut the dark construction paper into several 3" x 3" pieces. They can cut or tear the pieces, depending on the look they want to create.
  2. Protect the table with newspaper, in case of any stray drops of nail polish.
  3. Have your child fill the pie dish with about an inch of water.
  4. Help your child drop two or three drops of clear nail polish on the top of the water, making sure the brush does not touch the water surface.
  5. Ask your child to place a piece of construction paper where they dropped nail polish.
  6. Let the paper float to the count of five.
  7. Pick up the paper from the water surface.
  8. Some of the nail polish should have stuck to the paper, creating a beautiful, iridescent pattern. 
  9. If there's too much polish, pinch away; if there's too little, re-dip the paper.
  10. Use the stick to clear out leftover polish, then dip the paper again.
  11. You might want to empty the dish and add fresh water if it's getting full of polish.  
  12. If your child wants, they can glue their paper to a bigger piece of light-colored construction paper (for a pleasing contrast) and make a card. 

After your child has made a couple of designs, you can explain some of the science behind this activity. First of all, the nail polish floats in the water because it is less dense than the water, which is surprising. You might mention that oil also floats in water. The beautiful colors of a bubble and this nail polish art come from the different thicknesses of the material, which bend light and produce different colors, similar to how rain makes a rainbow.

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