Most kids love making hands-on science activities. However, many science experiments call for massive ingredient lists, a lot of time, or unusual ingredients. But you may already know by now that we aren’t about making things harder for you. A classic and fun simple science experiment is the tornado in a jar. This is one of many science experiments you can make with materials you already have in your home or classroom. 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.

– Life Over C's vertical image with the picture of a tall mason jar with a swirling water 'tornado' inside

Recommended Grade Level:

Materials for the Tornado in a Jar Science Experiment:

  • Jar
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Dish Soap
  • Glitter

Table of Contents

STEM Learning for Kids

STEM?! What’s STEM? I hear everyone talking about it and it seems to be the hot topic in schools, but I don’t really get it. STEM (and sometimes STEAM) stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (and occasionally Art). Our children are learning awesome skills in science, math and engineering to move towards future careers and brainstorming through hands-on activities.

On Life Over C’s, we love sharing quick STEM activities for preschoolers, kindergarteners and early elementary that get even the youngest learners experimenting and engages their natural curiosity. Activities, such as our building challenges and LEGO challenges are a great way to introduce kids to STEM through play and exploration.

In addition to this simple tornado in a jar experiment, you can check out some of our other weather science experiments for kindergarten and elementary:

Tornado Science for Kids

A lot of the things I ‘know’ about tornados are from watching movies about flying cows and storm chasers. While it’s very entertaining, realistically, it doesn’t teach us much about the spinning wind that causes so much damage. It’s important for our children to also learn about the science behind tornados and other forms of weather.

Britannica Kids has an awesome article that helps to explain the basics of tornados to our little learners. Tornados come from a storm with powerful winds that create a column or a funnel cloud. They can form in thunderstorms during the spring or summer. Tornados are so powerful that they can create a lot of damage to trees, houses, and cars. If you ever spot a tornado, find a space place to hide away from windows and glass. If you are outside and away from shelter, stay low to the ground or find a ditch to hide in.

– Life Over C's collage banner for books about weather for kids text overlay 89 aewsome weather books for kids click to see

Plus, easy weather science experiments, like this tornado in a jar, bring things to ‘life’ for kids without the dangers of a real tornado. Whether you are look for kindergarten stem activities or stem activities for 1st graders, this simple stem experiment is an easy way to learn about the circular motion of a tornado, all with a simple jar and water.

How Do You Make A Tornado In A Jar?

One of the great things about making this liquid, turbulent flow of air is the few materials you need (and most are already at home). You can make your own vortex within the very contents of the jar. Less mess, less damage, and more fun!

What materials will you need to make a tornado in a jar?

  • Vinegar (1 tsp)
  • Dish soap (1 tsp)
  • Glitter (1 tsp)
  • Water
  • Mason jar or clear bottle
  • Spoon or knife (for stirring)
  • Food coloring (optional)

Step By Step Instructions

  • Step 1– Find the perfect jar or clear bottle. Make sure that the jar or bottle has a lid that won’t let the water spill out. Add in enough water to fill the jar/bottle 3/4 of the way full.
  • Step 2– Mix 1 teaspoon of vinegar (about a capful of vinegar) into the jar.
  • Step 3– Add in 1 teaspoon or a few squirts of clear liquid soap.
– Life Over C's Up close image of a tall mason jar filled with soapy water.
  • Step 4– Mix 1 teaspoon of glitter into the jar.
  • Step 5– 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.
– Life Over C's A person holding a jar full of soapy water.

Tip: We added a few drops of yellow food coloring to our jar of water. 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.

Step 6: Screw the lid on tightly and give the jar a swirling motion to create the tornado.

Tip: You can also use a knife to stir things around. We found this made a more dramatic tornado in our jar.

– Life Over C's Photo of a metal knife stirring the water and glitter inside the mason jar.

Step 7– 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.

THE FINAL RESULT!

– Life Over C's Up close image of the glitter tornado inside the mason jar.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the hypothesis for the tornado in a bottle?

The hypothesis can be that the swirling water starts at the top and moves towards the bottom of the jar.

Why does a tornado in a jar work?

When you mix the liquid it creates a force like a vortex. The outer fluids slow down, but the inner fluid keeps moving.

How do I make a tornado in a 2 liter bottle?

Making a larger tornado is as simple as putting the ingredients into a larger container. Fill the 2 liter bottle leaving two inches of air at the top. Add in 2 additional tsps. of vinegar and dish soap ( 3 tsps. total). Add in 2 tsps. of glitter. Place the top on the bottle and shake.

What is a tornado made out of?

A tornado is a column of air that is made into a funnel by water droplets, dust, and other debris. Most tornados are created in the spring or summer during thunderstorms.

Getting Ready for Your Weather Theme?

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Explore all types of weather through engaging, multi-sensory books that your kids are just going to LOVE!

Click here to see our favorite weather books!

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– Life Over C's vertical image with the picture of a tall mason jar with a swirling water 'tornado' inside text says [tornado in a jar science experiment lifeovercs.com]

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author avatar
Kim Staten Owner and Curriculum Designer
Kim Staten is a mother of four children ages 20, 19, 16, and 12. Kim has taught at the preschool, kindergarten and early elementary levels for 16 years. With extensive experience working with special needs children, including her own children with special needs (Rett Syndrome, autism, anxiety, and ADHD), she creates hands-on curricula and activities that are great for working with children of all abilities in the classroom and at home. Hands-on, accessible activities are her passion. 

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