Self-Inflating Ghosts

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Use two common household materials to create balloon ghosts that inflate on their own! This activity was a classic in the Habitot Art Studio during “Stem Saturdays” in October. It introduces your child to early chemistry as they practice measurement and experimentation. 

What We’re Learning & Skills We’re Building

  • Early chemistry – the mixture of vinegar and baking soda creates a gas called carbon dioxide
  • Measurement – using a tablespoon and a liquid measuring cup to get the correct amount of baking soda and vinegar for the experiment 
  • Cause & effect – the carbon dioxide causes the balloon to inflate
  • Experimentation – using different materials and different amounts of materials to see what happens


  • Balloon 
  • (Optional) Sharpie or permanent marker 
  • Funnel
  • Baking soda (about 1 tablespoon) 
  • Empty bottle  (plastic bottle is fine)
  • White vinegar (about 1/2 cup, or 4 fluid ounces)
  • Art tray or rimmed baking sheet for working on top of
  • (Optional) Water
  • (Optional) Other types of vinegar


  1. (Optional) Draw a spooky (or not-so-spooky) ghost face on the deflated balloon. 
  2. Place the funnel into the mouth of the balloon. Measure about 1 tbsp. of baking soda and pour it through the funnel into the balloon. Carefully put the balloon aside. 
  3. Measure and pour about 1/2 cup of white vinegar into the empty bottle. 
  4. Stretch the mouth of the balloon over the mouth of the bottle you just filled with vinegar. 
  5. Once it’s secured onto the bottle, flip the balloon upside-down to empty the baking soda into the bottle. 
  6. Let go of the balloon and watch as the ghost expands and inflates on its own!

 More Experimenting and Learning 

  • Compare the white vinegar to plain water. Ask, “Do the two liquids look the same? Do they smell the same? What does the vinegar smell like?” (Vinegar smells very acidic, or sour. This acidity is what reacts with the baking soda to create the gas.) 
  • Do the same experiment using plain water instead of white vinegar. Ask, “Does the same reaction happen? Why not?”
  • Try using a different type of vinegar (apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, etc.) to see if a similar reaction happens. 
  • Change the amount of vinegar and/or baking soda to see how the reaction changes. (Note: We don’t recommend using more than 1 cup of vinegar and more than 2 tbsps. of baking soda at the same time – the balloon could pop!)