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Create a Tornado in a Bottle!

We had a great time at the science party we hosted with Seattle store Satsuma last weekend! A big hit was the tornado in a bottle activity – great for even the smallest kiddos!

With some common household items, this project goes together quickly. Simple and fun!

Supplies Needed:

  • Water bottle
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • Glitter

Directions:

  • If water bottle is empty, fill ¾ full with water. If water bottle is full, empty it until ¾ of the water remains.
  • Add a few pinches of glitter to the water.
  • Add four drops of dish soap.
  • Replace water bottle cap.
  • Holding the water bottle upside down, move it around in a big circle – this will create a “tornado” inside the water bottle, which is easy to see because of the glitter.

So what causes the tornado in the bottle? There are two things going on. One has to do with how you spin the bottle, and the other has to do with what is inside the bottle.

First, spinning the bottle in a circle creates force that moves the water. Where can it go? So long as you screwed the lid on tight, it can’t leave the bottle. So, the water moves around the edge of the bottle. It is going along a circular path. When something moves along a circular path, it also moves toward the center of the circle. That is called centripetal force. 

The second part to understanding how you created a tornado in a bottle is what is in the bottle: water – or a fluid. When you spin a fluid around a central point, it creates a spiral called a vortex. You couldn’t do this experiment if you filled the bottle with gummy bears. (Though, that would be a much tastier experiment.) 

If you look around, you can see examples of vortices in lots of places. Some are created by very powerful forces, such as a tornado or a whirlpool. Others are not as chaotic, and you can find them in your home. If you fill a bathtub and open the drain, then a whirlpool is created as the water rushes out. You can even see a vortex when you drop a bit of cream into a cup of hot coffee. The swirls of cream are vortices – and look really pretty, too.

So get your water bottles ready!! The kiddos who did this activity with us loved it, and we hope that you will, too!!

Do you want to build a rocket?!

Looking for some fun kid activities for winter break? Here’s one we love!

These little rockets use Alka Seltzer and water to make the fuel they need to launch into the air. But first, design and build your rocket using a simple 35mm film canister and other items often found around the house – a fun project for kids and adults to do together!  

Supplies Needed:

  • Film canister (like a Fuji 35mm film canister – without a lip on the outside; empty film canisters can be purchased online)
  • Paper
  • Two coffee stir sticks
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Water
  • Alka Seltzer

Building Directions:

  • Remove lid from film canister (remove film if necessary).
  • Using the scissors, cut two wings and a half-circle out of the paper.
  • Tape the wings on either side of the film canister (opening of the film canister facing down).
  • Shape the half-circle into a cone and tape to hold its cone shape.
  • Tape the two coffee stir sticks to either side of the inside of the cone.
  • Tape the other end of the two coffee stir sticks to the film canister.
  • Your rocket is ready to launch!!

Launch Instructions:

To launch your rocket, you’ll need half of an Alka Seltzer tablet broken into two quarters and some tap water.

  • Remove the lid from the film canister, and place the two pieces of Alka Seltzer tablet inside.
  • Fill about 1/3 to 1/2 full with tap water.
  • Place the cap back on the film canister.
  • Place your rocket on the ground (on a hard surface like a driveway or patio).
  • Countdown as your rocket fizzes toward its launch!
  • Watch your rocket pop into the air!!

Rockets can be reused for multiple launches.

We loved this activity and hope that you will, too!!

Gift Idea: Give a Rocket T-Shirt, Space Dress, or Space Leggings with the supplies to make her own Alka Seltzer Rocket!!