Here’s an awesome winter science experiment that is a blast to watch! Use simple ingredients to create a snowstorm in a jar. The really fun part is that once you have created your snowstorm in a jar, you can make it “snow” over and over without replacing the contents of the jar.
This science experiment (well, technically it’s a demonstration because we aren’t experimenting with any variables) is a variation on the classic lava lamp science project. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with snow, haha! But it’s fun to do a science activity that fits with the winter season. Especially if you are like us and live in a state that doesn’t get any snow.
(Side note – we were supposed to get a nice snowstorm yesterday, but it was a bust! So disappointing!)
If you remember our Jack O’Lantern Jar Lava Lamp, we used food coloring, water, and vegetable oil. For this snowstorm in a jar, the ingredients are slightly different but it’s the same concept.
Supplies Needed for a Snowstorm in a Jar:
- A jar – mason jar, spaghetti sauce jar, etc. We used a jar that we bought at Target
- White tempera paint
- Baby oil – it costs a little more than vegetable oil, but the color is better. Vegetable oil is a little yellow looking…
- Alka Seltzer
First, fill your jar with a little bit of white tempera paint. The paint is a little thick on its own, so dilute the paint with water and stir it up. I did 1/3 paint and 2/3 water. I also probably put in more paint and water than what was necessary. You don’t need quite as much as what I used here!
Then fill the jar the rest of the way with baby oil.
Now you’re ready to drop in an Alka Seltzer tablet and watch the fun!
Note: If your baby oil created a lot of bubbles squirting it into the jar, you’ll want to let your jar sit for an hour or two before dropping in the Alka Seltzer. If you give it time for all the bubbles to work their way to the top, the oil will be much more clear and the “snowstorm” will be much easier to see.
The consistency of the paint and water was just perfect for this! If you’ve done the lava lamp with colored water, you’ll definitely want to try this too. The paint is a little thicker than water and the bubbles ooze nicely, and it just looks so cool!
Here’s a video demo of our Snowstorm in a Jar in action! Click the button to play the video.
The Science Behind the Snowstorm in a Jar
Like I said, this has nothing to do with snow! But it’s a cool science demonstration with a chemical reaction.
Alka Seltzer tablets contain sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), citric acid, and aspirin (a pain reliever). In the tablet, the baking soda and citric acid can’t react with each other. When you drop the tablets into water, the citric acid reacts with the baking soda to form sodium citrate (which neutralizes stomach acid when you drink it), water, and carbon dioxide bubbles. We’re just interested in the carbon dioxide bubbles because they form the cool lava lamp effect!
When you mix water (it’s actually paint plus water) and oil in your jar, the oil separates and rises to the top. Oil and water won’t mix since water is made up of polar molecules, or molecules that have uneven electrical charges, and oil is made up of non-polar molecules. Oil is also less dense than water, so the water sinks to the bottom and the oil ends up on top.
*It’s important to use water-based paint for this experiment. Not that any paint for kids is oil-based, but just saying!
When you drop an Alka Seltzer into your lava lamp, it won’t react with the oil. It drops down to the water and paint level and begins to bubble. The carbon dioxide bubbles rise up through the oil because they are lighter (less dense) than both water and oil, and they take some of the white paint and water along with them. Once the bubbles pop at the top, the paint/water drops back down beneath the oil level again.
Need more Winter Science Activities?
Demonstrate How Snowshoes Work with this easy and very effective science experiment.
Don’t Melt the Ice Science Experiment – challenge kids to design a container that keeps ice from melting for the longest amount of time.
Hot Ice Science Experiment – make instant “hot ice” out of baking soda and vinegar. This is awesome!