Most kids love making hands-on science activities. However, many science experiments call for massive ingredients lists, a lot of time, or unusual ingredients. We like making simple science experiments that you can make from ingredients and supplies you already have on hand. A classic and fun simple science experiment is the tornado in a jar. With this experiment, kids can see how air that swirls in a circular pattern can create a funnel and pick stuff up off the ground.
MATERIALS NEEDED FOR THE TORNADO IN A JAR ACTIVITY:
- Tall jar (we used a 16 ounce mason jar)
- Food coloring (optional)
- Dish soap
Mix 1 teaspoon of vinegar, 1 teaspoon of dish soap, and 1 teaspoon of glitter in a jar 3/4 full of water. Stir everything in carefully so that you don’t make too many bubbles. If you shake your jar too much, it won’t make a tornado. If this happens, you don’t have to throw the batch out. Just wait until the bubbles settle and then you’ll be able to make another tornado.
We added a few drops of yellow food coloring to our jar. Where we live, sometimes the sky turns a scary, sickly yellow when a tornado is near, so we wanted to mimic that in our jar. You could also use blue for the sky color. Whatever color you add, make sure to just add a bit of color or you won’t be able to see your tornado.
Screw the lid on tightly and give the jar a swirling motion to create the tornado.
You can also use a knife to stir things around. We found this made a more dramatic tornado in our jar.
Watch as the tornado funnels down to the bottom of the jar, comes up, and picks up some of the glitter sitting on the bottom.
You can use this opportunity to talk about how tornadoes work and why they pick up stuff from the ground as well.
My kids wanted to repeat making tornadoes for nearly an hour. They were delighted at the results of their tornado in a jar!