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Are Childproof Containers Really Childproof?

Difficulty
Time Required Very Long (1+ months)
Prerequisites You need access to Kindergarteners who can do this human behavior science fair project.
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety For this human behavior science fair project, you will have to safely dispose of medications and household products. Always wear disposable gloves and safety goggles while cleaning out the containers. Adult supervision is required.

Abstract

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night just not feeling well? Maybe your mom or dad gave you some medicine and you felt better after taking it. Medicine is a great tool in the fight against an illness, but medicine can be a poison if too much is taken. Similarly, household products can clean your home and make it smell great, but if eaten, can be poisonous. That is why most medicines and household products are stored in childproof containers. But are childproof containers really childproof? In this human behavior science fair project, you will investigate the effectiveness of childproof containers by seeing if children can defeat the safety mechanisms of different containers, and if they can easily learn how to open a childproof container.

Objective

The objective of this human behavior science fair project is to test the effectiveness of several childproof containers and to investigate whether the safety mechanism can be easily figured out.

Credits

Michelle Maranowski, PhD, Science Buddies

This human behavior science fair project is based on the following California State Science Fair project by Madison J. Russell:

  • Russell, M. (n.d.). Determining if Childproof Containers are Really Childproof: Are Childproof Containers Really Safe from Children? California State Science Fair (CSSF).

Cite This Page

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Are Childproof Containers Really Childproof?" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 25 Nov. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/HumBeh_p047.shtml>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2014, October 23). Are Childproof Containers Really Childproof?. Retrieved November 25, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/HumBeh_p047.shtml

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Last edit date: 2014-10-23

Introduction

When you're not feeling well—maybe you've got a fever or a sore throat—medicine can help you feel better. Medicines come in all different kinds of flavors and colors...but why? One reason is that the actual medicines that make you feel better often do not taste good, so the manufacturers add flavorings, like grape and bubble gum, as well as color, to make them look and taste better. Some medicines, like aspirin, cause stomach irritation. To prevent this from occurring, the tablets have a coating that prevents stomach irritation. The coatings can have colors like orange, red, or yellow. The bad news is that some medicines can taste and look like candy to a young child. And what happens when you eat candy? You always want to eat a lot! This can happen to young children who have access to medicine—they ingest too much, which can lead to them getting very sick.

Household products, like cleaning solutions and cosmetics, come in various colors, packages, and scents. Window cleaning solution could be mistaken for juice or a sports drink. Kids are often attracted to the bright colors, interesting containers, and sweet smells. In the United States, over 1 million children, 5 years old or under, were exposed to potential poisons in 2004. To prevent children from taking too much medicine and from ingesting other household products, manufacturers started placing their products in childproof containers.

But how effective are childproof containers? Can children easily defeat the safety mechanisms on them? How long does it take to learn how to defeat the safety mechanism? In this human behavior science fair project, you will determine if childproof containers are really childproof. Children often mimic adults opening containers, so you will also investigate how easy it is to learn how to defeat the safety mechanism and open the container. Use several different kinds of containers from different household products and have the test subjects attempt to open the containers. By doing this science fair project, you will become aware of any safety issues that may be present in your home, which will help you improve the safety of children in your family or in others you know. You can also help your community by sharing your results.

Terms and Concepts

  • Poison
  • Childproof container

Questions

  • What kinds of household products do you have in your home? Are any of these products poisonous?
  • What kinds of childproof packaging do you have in your home?
  • Are the hazardous household products stored safely away from young children in your home? How safe is your home?
  • What are some steps you can take at home to prevent accidental poisoning?
  • What kinds of new childproof containers have been invented recently?
  • How have childproof containers changed from when you were a kid? Hint: You could ask your parents.

Bibliography

For help creating graphs, try this website:

The following websites give safe disposal instructions.

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Materials and Equipment

  • Disposable gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Test subjects, Kindergarteners (at least 30)
  • Table
  • Childproof containers, emptied and cleaned (1 of each); must include:
    1. A pharmacy pill bottle,
    2. A cough medicine container,
    3. An aspirin tablet container,
    4. A toilet bowl cleaner container, and
    5. A drain cleaner container
    Each container must have a unique way of opening from the other containers.
  • Stopwatch
  • Masking tape
  • Permanent marker
  • Lab notebook
  • Graph paper

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Experimental Procedure

  • Does gender affect the ability to open childproof containers? Review the data and organize it by gender to determine if there is a dependence on gender.
  • Gather test subjects of a younger age and an older age and repeat this human behavior science fair project. How does age affect the ability to open childproof containers?
  • If you would like to try a similar human behavior project, try the Science Buddies project Candy Confusion: Can Small Children Mistake Medicine for Candy?.

Important Notes Before You Begin:

  • This human behavior science fair project requires that you have empty and clean childproof containers. You may have to go to the store and purchase appropriate medication and household products.
  • Before you start this science fair project, you must carefully empty and clean all of the containers. In many cases, medications and household cleaners cannot be thrown in the garbage or down the drain. The following websites give safe disposal instructions:
    1. Medications: www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/quick_topics/publications/shw/meds/DEPMedicationDisposalFlyer.pdf
    2. Household cleaning products: www.healthycleaning101.org/english/HCP_disposal.html
  • In the case of medications, you should find other opaque containers in which to throw out the medication.
  • Remember that many of these products are hazardous and can hurt you if they touch your skin or get splashed into your eyes, so always wear disposable gloves and goggles while cleaning the containers. Have an adult help you clean and prepare the containers.

Performing the Experiment

  1. Since you will be working with human subjects, you need to get advance permission from the children's parents or guardians (and teachers if you are performing the test while they are in school) to make sure that it is alright for the children to participate in the science fair project. There are special considerations when designing an experiment involving human subjects. Intel ISEF-affiliated (International Science and Engineering) fairs often require an Informed Consent Form for every participant who is questioned. Consult the rules and regulations of the science fair that you are entering, prior to performing experiments or surveys. Please refer to the following Science Buddies document for additional important requirements for studies involving human subjects: Scientific Review Committee (SRC).
    1. Write a clear description of your science fair project, what you are studying, and what you hope to learn. Include how the child will be tested. Include a paragraph where you get a parent's or guardian's, and/or teacher's signature.
    2. Print out as many copies as you need for each child you will be surveying.
    3. Pass them out to the children or to the teachers of the children to give to the parents. You must have permission for all the children in order to be able to use them as test subjects.
  2. Arrange for a quiet place, such as in your school, where you can easily meet with your test subjects, individually. Because there are so many test subjects, you might want to set up several time slots after school on several days when the test subjects can come and participate. Each test subject will need to be available for approximately 20 minutes.
  3. Set up the table with the five empty and clean childproof containers on top.
  4. Have a test subject come into the room. Let the test subject know that you are investigating how easy or difficult different types of containers are to open, and that he or she will be given 1 minute to try to open each container (for a total of 5 minutes).
  5. Set the stopwatch to 1 minute. Give the test subject the first container. Start the stopwatch. After the minute is over, stop the stopwatch and ask the test subject to put the container down. Then record in your lab notebook, in a data table like the one shown below, whether the test subject was able to open the first container within 1 minute. Be sure to also assign the test subject a number for the "Test Subject" column (instead of writing down his or her name). Do not show the test subject how to open the containers yet.


Test Subject Gender Container Container open after 1 minute? Container open after being shown how?
    1    
2    
3    
4    
5    
    1    
2    
3    
4    
5    


  1. Repeat step 5 with containers 2–5. Always record all of your data in your lab notebook.
  2. Was the test subject able to open all of the containers? Gather the containers that he or she was not able to open. Show the test subject how to open the first container that he or she couldn't open, without using any verbal cues. Only show him or her one time.
  3. Close the first container he or she couldn't open. Set the stopwatch to 1 minute and give the container to the test subject.
  4. Start the stopwatch, and see if he or she can open it on the second try. Record the data in your lab notebook.
  5. Repeat steps 8–9 with the rest of the containers.
    1. After you have given the test subject a second try with the containers, tell him or her that the experiment is concluded and thank him or her for participating in your human behavior science fair project.
  6. Repeat steps 4–10 with each of the remaining test subjects. Remember to record all of your data in your lab notebook. Note: Be sure each container is closed before giving them to your test subjects each time. If you accidentally left one open, don't let him or her see how you close it.

Analyzing the Data

  1. Create a data table, like the one shown below. Record the total number of test subjects above the table in your lab notebook. In the example below, there are a total of 50 test subjects. Review the data in the first data table and count how many test subjects were able to open each container on the first try, recording that number in column 1. Then count how many test subjects were able to open the container after being shown how to open the container and record that number in column 2. Add columns 1 and 2 together for the total number of test subjects who were able to open each container by the end of the experiment, recording that number in column 3.


Container Number of Test Subjects Able to Open the Container on the First Try Number of Test Subjects Able to Open the Container After Being Shown How Total Number of Test Subjects Able to Open the Container By the End of the Experiment Percent of Test Subjects Able To Open the Container on the First Try Percent of Total Test Subjects Able to Open the Container By the End of the Experiment
Container 1 30 10 40 60% 80%
Container 2          
Container 3          
Container 4          
Container 5          


  1. Calculate the percentage of test subjects who were able to open the containers, and record the data in your lab notebook. Equation 1 explains how to calculate percent.


Equation 1:


Percent of Total Test Subjects Able to Open the Container =   Total Number of Test Subjects Able to Open Container
Total Number of Test Subjects
  × 100


  1. Plot your data. You can create your plots by hand, or if you would like to do your plots online or learn more about the different kinds of plots, try the following website: Create a Graph.
    1. Plot your raw data on a bar chart. Label the x-axis Container and the y-axis Total Number of Test Subjects Able to Open Container. Plot both the first try and the end-of-experiment data on the same graph. What does the data look like? Does showing the test subject how to open the container increase the total number of test subjects that can open the container?
    2. Plot the percentage data on a bar chart. Label the x-axis Container and the y-axis Total Percent of Test Subjects Able to Open Container. Plot both the first try and the end-of-experiment data on the same graph. What have you learned by doing this human behavior science fair project?

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Variations

  • Does gender affect the ability to open childproof containers? Review the data and organize it by gender to determine if there is a dependence on gender.
  • Gather test subjects of a younger age and an older age and repeat this human behavior science fair project. How does age affect the ability to open childproof containers?
  • If you would like to try a similar human behavior project, try the Science Buddies project Candy Confusion: Can Small Children Mistake Medicine for Candy?.

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project I Did This Project! Please log in and let us know how things went.

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