Google+ Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas: The Penny Experiment

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Penny Experiment

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It's President's Day so I thought it was the perfect time to do some penny experimenting (Abraham Lincoln is on the penny, after all!).  The Lil Divas LOVE our experiments, so they were instantly intrigued by the idea of performing some experiments with our pennies. This is another fun & easy experiment/observation to do with the kids at home or school.

Before you begin:
Compare a newer penny to an older one. Ask child why they think the older penny is darker and not as shiny and coppery as the newer penny.  The Lil Divas told me the older pennies were dirty (they are actually covered in copper oxide)

I then asked them to tell me how we could clean the dirty pennies. The Littlest Diva suggested we wash them in water. Building on that the Oldest Diva suggested we use soap & water. I suggested we do both, plus use a special mix that I had in mind and see what happens. They were up for the challenge.

What You Need:
old pennies - the older the better! (we used 40)
3 clear cups
dish soap
vinegar (you could also use lemon juice)

What To Do:
1. Fill the 3 clear cups as follows:
fill the 1st w/plain water & add 10 pennies
fill the 2nd w/water + dish soap & add 10 pennies
fill the 3rd w/1/2 cup vinegar + 2 teaspoons salt & add 20 pennies

I took this opportunity to introduce my "special" cleaning mix.
After adding the salt & vinegar into the 3rd cup,
I took one dirty penny and dipped it into the cup half way
so that half the penny was in the mixture & half was not.

after about 10-15 seconds I took it out
& let the Lil Divas observe what had occurred.

We left all the pennies in their cups for 5 minutes. At that time, we came back for a peek and 
took out 10 of the pennies from the salt & vinegar cup and placed them on a napkin (without rinsing or drying them).

After an additional 5 minutes (10 minutes total for the experiment), we came back to see our results.

The water only cup had no noticeable results.
The Lil Divas thought the pennies in the soap & water cup looked a little cleaner.
The pennies from the salt & vinegar mixture were noticeable cleaner.
(see above comparison to a clean/new penny at bottom of napkin)

Now for an additional experiment:
I rinsed the pennies that came out of the salt & vinegar cup in plain water.
I put them next to the ones we had taken out mid experiment &
invited the Lil Divas to take a look. Here's what they saw:

Pretty cool! It's like what happens to the Statue of Liberty. Why do they turn this bluish-green color? The cooper in the penny reacts with the air (oxygen) and salt and turns the penny green.

Happy Experimenting!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! So easy to do & the Lil Divas were completely captivated by the results.

  2. oooh fantastic. We have a version of this coming up soon too. x

    1. oh, can't wait to see what you use! I will be revisiting this with some "fun" solvents like ketchup, soy sauce, lemon juice, etc... For this one, I let them decide what they thought would "clean" the pennies. Now that they have a basis about what happened with the salt & vinegar we can expand! :)

  3. Saw your project on Pinterest today, which was perfect because my 5yo son has been asking to "do some science" - so we did it this afternoon & videoed it... I'll edit it & put it up on Youtube, with a link back to you, of course!

  4. Great science idea again. I love these kind of posts. thanks.

  5. Well! Not only is this a great experiment, but a great cleaning tip! I love it :-)

    Thank you for sharing on Kids Get Crafty!


  6. Here's our video:

  7. fun experiment. we love finding new ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Wow! This is super awesome. I learned stuff from reading it.:) Definitely going to remember this one.:)

  9. My daughter's class just experimented with this at school this week and I was curious what they were doing. We'll have to recreate this at home and journal about it more! Thanks for sharing on the Afterschool Party

  10. Such a fun and simple activity. I'm definitely going to do that with my kids. Thanks. Jodi @

  11. wanted to get permission from you to repin this on my pintrest account...can you email at aandsrempel at yahoo dot ca to let me know its okay

  12. what a fun experiment! thanks for sharing on craft schooling Sunday!

  13. I just found your site and I am LOVING it! My five year old daughter is always wanting to do experiments and I was running out of things to do that didn't require spending $$$. Thank you for all these!

  14. so fun! we did this experiment this week too!

  15. I always love the variations I see on the penny experiment. Everyone has their own acidic thing they use to clean the pennies. The most amusing to me has been ketchup.

    Thanks for linking up to Science Sunday!

  16. What a fun experiment! Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!! I hope you will share with us again this week!

  17. Try using a penny made after 1983 scrape the copper off the edge and put one in vinegar and one in lemon juice....notice the immediate reaction but then leave submersed for a week and you will have the shell of the penny and the inside separated

  18. We did this at our homeschool and we let them sit for 3 weeks, taking notes every other day. It amazed me what happened in the end!! We ended up with a penny with a hole in it!!!

  19. I use this experiment for discussing "working together" to get something done for my preschoolers. Vinegar doesn't get the pennies clean by itself, salt doesn't get them clean - but when you put them together....clean pennies!

  20. Ok I have a silly nerdy question. Pennies 1982 and older are solid copper, pennies younger are mix medals. (Older pennies are actually worth 2 cents, double) Did you notice a difference in the pennies according to age?

  21. ketchup also works well to make a penny shine!

  22. Hi! Quick question! How long did it take for your pennies to turn green?! I would love to do this with my class but we do not have very much time (a week)!

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