Fireworks in a Jar

New Year’s Eve  is coming up and here’s an easy colorful way to get your holiday started with some science!  Just 3 ingredients from your pantry.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • water
  • oil (we used vegetable oil)
  • food coloring
  • clear empty glass jar (we needed two because each of my older boys had to have their own)
  • clear small glass bowl
  • fork


First we filled the empty jar with water. We filled 2 jars because my older sons MUST have their own jars.


In the small bowl, we added about 1/3 cup of vegetable oil.  The actual amount doesn’t really matter.

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Add a few drops of food coloring to the oil.  We added a few drops of each color.


Notice that the food coloring doesn’t mix or dissolve but remains in droplets in the oil.  Use a fork to mix the droplets with the oil.  The color will not dissolve but the droplets will break into smaller droplets which is what you want.


Now the fun part!  Pour the oil into the jar with water.

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The oil will float at the top because oil and water do not mix and oil is less dense than water.

Be patient.  In less than a minute, you should see the colors drip from the oil and into the water, looking like fireworks in the water.

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The different colors will mix and form new ones.  It really is so fascinating to watch!


Even our littlest superhero came over to see what the fuss was all about.  He promptly shook the jar as toddlers usually do 🙂  Good thing I took pictures before he got to experimenting!


The Science behind the Activity:

Oil and water are known to be immiscible, meaning they do not mix or dissolve into each other.  Chemically this is because water is polar and oil is nonpolar.  Food coloring dissolves readily in water but does not dissolve in oil.  When the oil is poured into the water, the oil will float on top of the water for 2 reasons: 1. because water and oil don’t mix and 2. because oil is less dense than water.  As the drops of food coloring fall to the bottom of the oil layer, they meet the water and immediately mix and dissolve, creating the pretty swirls.

For more details and to see where I got this idea from visit this link:



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