In the United States (and many other countries around the world), it is common to see fireworks during times of great celebration. 4th of July and New Year’s Eve are two major celebrations commonly associated with fireworks.
No one quite knows who invented fireworks, and many people believe they were invented in China. Others think they may have originated in India or Arabia.
But no matter their origin, it’s clear that fireworks have been around for a long time. And they are well known to produce a lot of light and noise. For many children — and a lot of animals, too! — fireworks can be very scary.
So if you’d like to enjoy some “fireworks” without the sensory overload that can be so frightening, making fireworks in a jar is a wonderful alternative.
Note: For more 4th of July activities and printables, see my 4th of July activities page.
I gathered the following supplies:
- cooking oil (I used Canola oil, but I imagine just about any oil would work)
- a bowl
- a tall, empty glass jar (if you don’t have a jar, a vase would work well too)
- a fork
- food coloring
To make fireworks in a jar, start by measuring 1 TBS of oil into the bowl.
Then add several drops of food coloring.
Use the fork to whisk the food coloring and oil together. You will need to whisk quite briskly to get them to mix, because food coloring and oil naturally tend to separate.
In fact, it is their tendency to separate that makes this activity possible. (You can read more about the science behind this activity at the end of the post.)
Once your food coloring and oil are mixed, pour the mixture into your jar that you have filled almost to the top with water.
Then watch the fireworks ensue!
We then repeated the activity, but using our Colorations Liquid Watercolor Paints instead of our food coloring. (I also added a white backdrop to get better pictures :-).) The results were even better this time!
The fireworks started off slow.
But they just kept getting better.
What a beautiful sight!
The science behind the activity
So how and why does this work?
It has to do with the fact that oil and water do not mix, but food coloring (or liquid watercolors) and water do.
Whisking the colors into the oil temporarily causes them to stick to the oil.
When you pour the mix into the jar, the oil keeps the mix floating at the top. But as the colors begin to separate from the oil, they fall down into the water in droplets that begin to break apart and dissolve, making them look like a tiny fireworks explosion.
I wish we had tried mixing a bunch of colors together to see what it would look like. 🙂 If you try this with your kids, let me know how it goes for you!
More 4th of July resources
More 4th of July posts from Gift of Curiosity:
- Books about the American flag
- 4th of July Montessori activities
- 4th of July sensory bin
- Sticky paper American flag craft
- 4th of July Printables Pack
- 4th of July do-a-dot printables
- 4th of July Bingo
- 4th of July Sudoku
- American flag printables