While I was training at Norland we would have a 3 hour practical support class. This class basically covered all the practical things that we might need to know in our future jobs, from how to change a nappy, make up a pram neatly to different activities to do with children. Now my repertoire has grown somewhat since I graduated, but I still love to do this very simple film canister fireworks experiment with all my charges.

Not only is it simple and exciting experiment, but also it is a great way to teach children about safety around fireworks.  |Around 1000 people are injured in firework related accidents in the 4 weeks surrounding November 5th.

Be sure to follow my outside activities board on Pinterest for more ideas.  Don’t forget to save the pin for later. 

You will need:

  • Some old film canisters*
  • Warm water
  • Dissolvable tablets like alka seltzer or vitamin c ones
  • Safety goggles

* if you ask in a Snappy Photos, Jessops or Boots they may have some left overs.

It is better to do this activity outside, but it is possible to do it inside.  Just make sure that it isn’t done on a carpet and move anything breakable as it can be very messy and the film canisters can end up going really high. You also need to be fairy quick with putting the lids on.

Add your water to the canister and add the tablet.

YC carefully adding some water to her canister.

YC carefully adding some water to her canister.

Quickly snap the lid on, turn it upside down, place it on the floor and back away. The canister should shoot up into the air.

You have to flip it over very quickly or it will go off in your hand.

You have to flip it over very quickly or it will go off in your hand.

The science behind it

As the tablets dissolve in the water it releases the gas Carbon Dioxide. As the lid is on it causes the CO2 to build up. Once there is sufficient pressure, the gas will push the cap down which causes the base to fly up.

Once you have had a few goes, why not experiment with it:

  • Try adding more or less water
  • Try adding more of the tablet
  • What happens if you use cold water instead of warm


Firework safety

Whenever I do this experiment the children and I always pretend that our canisters are real fireworks.  That way they are learning what to do IF they ever come across an unused firework. First of all we always carry a damp tea towel with us, because sometimes the film canisters don’t work (normally the lid isn’t on tight enough and the gas has escaped). If the canister firework hasn’t gone off, we wait for at least 30 seconds, then carefully we approach and when we are close enough we put the damp tea towel over the top.

Secondly we always make sure our spectators are at a safe distance, obviously for this activity it is only a couple of steps away, but we discuss that with really fireworks they have to be much further away. EC loves to be in charge of making sure everyone is at a safe distance.

Finally they only get to do the experiment if they are with an adult.  Of course I am not saying that this means that they are old enough to light a firework, but it they are helping clear them away or set them up then they must be with an adult.


I hope that you all have a great and safe Bonfire Night.

Pin for later:

film canister fireworks experiment for children.

About The Author

Nanny Anita
Norland Nanny

Nanny Anita is our resident Super Nanny. Having trained at the famous Norland College, in Bath, she has over 12 years experience, working all over the world with children from 2 months to 17 years old. Nanny Anita is an expert when it comes to keeping the little ones entertained and writes a column with Leonora called 'Get Crafty' for Little London magazine. Nanny Anita has been on hand to answer our reader questions, and she provides weekly arts, crafts and activities for families to do with their children at home. She really is a modern day Mary Poppins!

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