Science for Littles: Experimenting with gummy candy

Emma and Johnny admire their growing gummy worm

The grin on Johnny’s face may reflect some excitement over the experiment, but I think it has a lot more to do with the fact that he grabbed and gobbled my first comparison gummy worm immediately before I snapped this photo.

This experiment is straight out of a science experiment book I picked up in the dollar bins at Target. It’s advertised for 2-3 grade, but the experiments are great for preschoolers too, with some accommodations.

The idea behind this particular experiment (not explained in the book beyond a brief reference to osmosis, much to my chagrin. Of course, the book also calls itself “Physics tricks”, while I would consider this a chemistry or biology experiment. It’s still a good buy, for $1) is that gummy candies are porous and can therefore absorb a lot of water – so much, in fact, that they grow quite dramatically. This Trolli gummy worm, for example, nearly doubled in size. As the candy expands, the bonds loosen, making it much more fragile – this worm broke just being tipped out of the container above.

comparison of a regular gummy worm with one soaked in water for several hours
As a further experiment, we also tried soaked an Austrian Haribo gummy bear, imported by my lovely parents. Austrian Haribo gummy bears taste much better than the American Haribo gummy bears, and they are also colored with natural dyes (I’m pretty sure the American version uses artificial dyes).

Naturally dyed gummy bear after soaking in water

Which explains why, while the gummy worm kept the same vibrant colors, the Haribo bear’s colors appear fainter in the giant soaked bear. Which makes me think that those natural dyes really must be much healthier…

This experiment also explains my bloated stomach after eating an entire package of Austrian Haribo gummy bears once as a teenager. I was in Austria, and Austrian Haribo gummy bears are GOOD.


  1. says

    Ah, so THIS is what we’ll be doing tomorrow morning for science fun. I just knew I’d come up with an answer by tonight.


  2. Caitlin Hubbard says

    Interesting to see your comments about natural and artificial food colorants (as I’m a Food Scientist and we focused a lot on natural and artificial colors in all of my classes!)

    To draw a parallel, gummies expand in water the same way that starches do if you’re making a gravy! Candy science is especially interesting to me and I love seeing what people are doing with candy. For a grown up treat, try soaking the gummies in any liquor. I haven’t done this, but I’d be interested to see how water absorption and alcohol absorption compare :)


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