Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sensory Science Play Teaching Liquid Density

Sensory Science Activity Teaching Liquid Density

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Ok, so this was one of those happy accident kind of activities. I was busy and L was asking to play with ice. I was quickly trying to think of something new to do with the ice to keep him busy LONGER (hey, just being honest lol) so I dumped a bunch of glitter on the ice. The baby oil was right by the glitter (yes, that is how unorganized my craft space is) so I dumped a bunch of that on there the time I was thinking to myself, "Wow, this is the most rediculous thing i've ever come up with!" lol

However, it turned out to be brilliant sensory play and a terrific science activity teaching simple principles in liquid densities.

I gave him a bowl of warm water and set him up outside by the porch. This activity could also easily be done indoors with a towel under it for easy cleanup and less mess.

He started exploring the ice mixture, saying how "pretty" it was.

and it really was beautiful! 
The oil added an extra shine to everything that was especially brilliant in the sunlight.

And then something cool happened!
He came running in to tell me how "beautiful the ice made the water"...and he was right!
When he dipped the ice into the warm water, the baby oil slid right off the ice and beaded up in the water. The glitter was mixed into the baby oil, so it created gorgeous glittery pools in the water.

AH HA! The perfect moment to teach about the simple principles of liquid density.
Depending on your child's age, they may ask or you may probe the question...
"Why does the oil float on the water?" or "What made those glittery spots on the water?"

There's a simple explanation!
(You probably know this, but I'll break it down in a suggestion on how you might
explain this to your age appropriate child.)

If two liquids with different densities (introduce a new vocabulary word here, but explain that it means "heaviness,") get mixed together, then they get separated based on their "weight."
The liquid with the lower density (the liquid that is less heavy) will float on the liquid with higher density (the heavier liquid). Since the oil is "lighter" than the water, it floats on top of it. 

At very close to 3 years old, L definitely seemed to grasp this concept!
Especially since we had previously done "sink or float?" activities prior to this.

I'd call this activity a happy accident for sure!

Baby oil can be harmful and even fatal if swallowed. Please use parental discretion based on age and developmental appropriateness when using baby oil in any activity.

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  1. So awesome and beautiful!

  2. Beautiful! I love when something unplanned turns out to be spectacular!

  3. This is awesome! My little guy LOVES ice so I'll have to try this soon!!

  4. Jess! This is awesome! Lexi is gonna love this! Thanks for being so super creative!(even if it is by accident sometimes) :D

  5. Wow! My little ones will love this!

  6. How fun! We just played with ice yesterday too, even though it was a bit chilly. I also freeze stuff in bundt pans and have kids work to get it out with other water or rocks.

    Lindsey @

  7. Thanks for sharing your happy accident! We may be trying this this week. :)

  8. Whoa! I would have never thought of those items all together! Fabulous! Sending you wishes for a Happy Teacher Appreciation deserve it:)

  9. I love it when something new happens I am so trying this. This happened to us when cleaning up metalic acrylic paint after a painting day paint+warm water and washing up liquid makes a lovely shimmery water effect it is so pretty.

  10. How pretty! We will be giving this activity a whirl tomorrow!

  11. My son adores playing with water and he loves glitter (who doesn't?) We are definitely going to have to try this. Thanks so much for linking up to the Weekly Kids Co-op.

  12. Wow, when I saw the title of the post I thought how did they think of that? I was just looking for something new to do with ice too! Will definitely have to give this a try!

  13. I don't mean to be a downer, but baby oil and small children don't mix. Very dangerous:

    Just a little fyi.

  14. Hi Kim, while I appreciate your concern for the safety of children, I would almost have to assume you may not have read the article in full as I did, because I think you may not have posted the warning if so. The child in that article was 15 months old, not being properly attended to, found a bottle of baby oil in his sister's purse, somehow opened it and began to drink it. His sister came in, yelled at him..scaring the baby and he basically inhaled the baby oil in his lungs which resulted in cardiac arrest, which caused brain damage. Therefore, however sad and unfortunate this story is, I believe my almost 4 year old son was definately in no danger from this activity where I merely squirted some baby oil onto some ice cubes, the only contact him having from that being his hands. I would say that baby oil is relatively safe for most children unless there are skin sensitivities, allergies, or like the article you suggested...inhaled or ingested, in which case the point is not really that baby oil is dangerous, but that you should properly watch your children.

  15. I did this today with my 2 year old, 5 year old, and 7 year old grandkids they had a blast I need a couple of more activity's for today and this was one of the favorites! thanks for sharing your happy accident

  16. I read the comment from Kim dolye thorsen and just wanted to say that if she has any concerns regarding the baby oil then she could replace it with any cooking oil *olive/canola/grapeseed* - preferably as light as possible (and you only need a few drops.....)

  17. Oh bummer... you do realize you are responsible for a lifetime of vaccing up glitter from the most unexpected hiding spots, right> I will HAVE to do this with the wee dude and the ninja princess. No two ways about it. Dammit, that's my garden covered in glitter from now on >.< If you will excuse me, I have ice cubes to freeze.

  18. I think I will use coconut oil and use warm/hot water to mix that and the glitter. If it gets ingested, which I have a few that may try it, it won't hurt them. Thanks, we are doing an Ice Investigation at the end of our Winter lessons, this will work wonderful.


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