A few summers ago, we did a fun challenge of 31 days of STEM activities for kids. Each day, we did a new activity related to Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math. The first 10 days of the series are all about science experiments for kids.
This tornado in a jar science experiment is so simple, but it’s a fun way to teach kids about how tornadoes form, vortexes, and centripetal force.
The best thing about this science experiment is that you can do it in a jar of any kind, and it’s incredibly classroom-friendly. If you have an extra five minutes, work this activity into your science lesson of the week. If you want more fun weather science for kids, add this easy experiment to the list!
How to Make a Tornado in a Jar
Follow along with these instructions to learn how to make a tornado in a jar! But first, learn a bit about the science of tornadoes!
Tornado Science for Kids
A tornado (vortex) is formed in the center of a jar when you shake it up. This is due to centripetal force, which forces the water toward the center of the jar. The reason you can see it when you add dish soap is because the soap suds slightly, making the vortex more visible.
The glitter is just for fun.
Real-life tornadoes, hurricanes, and waterspouts are all formed from centripetal force.
Learn how to make a cloud in a jar with shaving cream and food coloring!
With a tornado in a jar, kids can see how rotating air patterns can create tornado, just like their vortex in the jar. While completing this science activity, ask the kids how they think temperature helps create circular air patterns.
Challenge the kids to think of ways that they could prevent circular air patterns from forming. How do engineers prepare buildings to keep them stable during tornadoes?
Use this science experiment worksheet to expand and record your tornado in a jar results.
If you’re in a rush, these are our favorite weather science kits.
Tornado STEAM Activity Extensions
Use these STEAM extensions to make your tornado science fair project even more meaningful!
Change the temperature of the water, add more glitter, and more dish soap. How does this affect how the tornado forms? Try other jar shapes, too!
Use a magnifying glass and examine the tornado. Can you see the eye of the storm?
How do engineers make sure buildings won’t get torn down during a tornado?
Place a piece of paper inside an empty jar along with a dab of paint and a marble. Shake the jar in a circular motion. You’ve made tornado art!
Research how strong the wind has to be to make a tornado. How many tornadoes affect your country each year?
Supplies for Making a Tornado in a Jar
- Mason jar (we used a tall one)
- Dish soap
1 – 32oz Regular Mouth Ball Canning Mason Jar (Pack Of 2)Original Stationery Arts and Crafts Glitter Shake Jars, Extra Fine, 24 Multi color SetDawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap, Original Scent, 2 count, 56 oz.
Directions to Make a Tornado in a Jar
Today’s activity in how do you make a tornado is simple. Learn about vortexes and centripetal force by making a tornado in a jar. We had a lot of fun with this STEM activity!
Fill the jar mostly full of water. Drop no more than two drops of dish soap into the mixture.
Add a tiny sprinkle of glitter and close the lid.
Shake using a circular motion to reveal your tornado!