Burning Candle Experiment

Science is so cool. Sometimes it feels like magic. But it’s science, so here’s the explanation for what’s happening in this fun experiment.

It took only a few minutes to round up these household items and completely wow my 4-year-old: a clear bowl, a clear pitcher, a tealight candle and lighter, and food coloring just because colored water just makes it more fun.


We placed the candle floating in a few inches in the water, and I lit it. Eddie helped place the pitcher over the candle. We watched.


The candle burned through the oxygen in the pitcher in a few seconds then flickered out. The the “magic” happened. The water rose inside the pitcher, well above the water level surrounding outside in the bowl.


So cool we had to repeat it a few times with different colors (of course!).

This is a classic example of something so simple but so enriching which I would usually not bother to make happen. Behind the scenes of these sweet photos there are dirty breakfast dishes I could have been clearing and cleaning. Housework, yard work, emails and social media clamor at us all day every day. I’ve learned if I wait to the to-do list to shrink before fitting in the fun it’ll never happen.


This whole experiment took maybe five minutes, made very little mess, and the grin on his little face says it all. Is it life-changing to make time to wow a kid with a little science? He may not go on to be a scientist someday and thank his mother for all those DIY household experiments in his doctoral dissertation on groundbreaking physics or chemistry. But beyond the educational benefit is the relational one. Doing it together is what matters. Maybe science isn’t your thing. Maybe it’s sports, so go toss a ball around before you do the dishes or tackle the laundry or those never-ending emails. Maybe it’s art, so pull down the markers and go to town on a cardboard box creation. Maybe it’s music, so crank the playlist and have a dance party on your dirty kitchen floor.

Whether or not we are impacting our children’s brains, we are for sure making a deep impact on their hearts.


One thought on “Burning Candle Experiment

  1. Janine Rocke

    Good reminder, Kali! As a mom whose children are now mostly grown, I can support the philosophy of “putting in the big rocks first, then there will be room for all the little pebbles.” I’ve always liked the analogy of our earthly journey being like a jar filled with rocks and sand: if we start with sand, we will never have room for the (important) big rocks. This in itself is a neat little experiment:)
    I hope I have placed the big rocks in my kids’ lives so they have the foundation on which to build–I am richly blessed! And so will you be!


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