BSc (Hons) Extended Science. Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Learning objectives

To learn about the properties of chemical substances and stimulate creativity.

Resources needed

  • Water
  • Oil
  • Food colouring (any colour)
  • Two clear glasses
  • A fork



1. Fill the tall glass almost to the top with room-temperature water.

2. Pour two tablespoons of oil into the other glass.

3. Add two drops of food colouring to the glass with the oil.

4. Stir the oil into the food colouring using a fork. Stop once you break the food colouring into smaller drops.

5. Pour the oil and colouring mixture into the tall glass.

6. Now watch! The food colouring will slowly sink in the glass, with each droplet expanding outwards as it falls. Looks like fireworks!

Food dye in water and oil

How to put the idea into practice

Provide assistance in gathering all materials and supervise the mixing of the substances.


Explain how it works

Food colouring dissolves in water, but not in oil. So when you pour in your food colouring/oil mixture, the oil will float at the top of the water because it is less dense than the water, and the food colouring will begin to dissolve once it sinks through the oil and into the water.

Follow-up activities

Try doing it without the oil and observe and record the results.

Ways to include all learners

Provide assistance in mixing things up and explain as you go. Use step-by-step visuals.

How might this activity support social, emotional and mental health needs?

This activity encourages sensory and emotional engagement through the process of making emotional-based colour choices and talking to others about decisions and the tasks involved.

Research with Plymouth Institute of Education