Messy Summer Science pits oil against water

Renee Sommer

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean a child’s education has to stop. This simple science experiment teaches kids the relationship between oil and water, uses simple ingredients you probably already have at home, and will keep the kids busy for as long as it takes to melt ice! And let’s face it, what’s cooler on a hot day than playing with ice?


• Baking dish or other shallow pan
• Water
• Food coloring
• Oil (Coconut, vegetable, etc. Clear is better, but any food-safe oil will work!)
• Ice cube trays


1. The only bit of prep work that really needs to be done is filling an ice cube tray with water a few hours ahead of time. Add a few drops of food coloring to each individual cube. Pop them in the freezer, and once they’re frozen you’re ready to start experimenting.

2. Pour oil into your baking dish. You do not want the oil to cover the ice cubes when you put them in. For most baking dishes, half an inch of oil will likely be plenty.

3. Pop the ice cubes out of the tray and drop them into the oil. Let the kids experiment! You’ll find if they pull them through quickly, tiny little bubbles of color will form. A slower approach should produce larger pockets of color. The water and oil should never mix, but large clusters of color may form.

Tip: This can be done inside on a rainy day, but it’s even more fun outside! The kiddos can splash the oil and colors if they like without worrying about staining the carpet.