Fireworks in a Dish

By , March 6, 2011 4:35 pm


If you have milk, food coloring and dish washing soap on hand…



you can have impressive rainy-day science fun!

Pour some milk into a plate:



Wait a minute for any motion in the milk to settle down, then add four drops of different colors of food coloring.  Place the drops next to each other near the center of the plate.




Wait a minute or so until the colors get a bit blotchy-looking:




Take a clean cotton swab and gently place it on the colors.  What do you think will happen?

(SPOILER ALERT:  Absolutely nothing.)

Now put a drop of dish soap onto the other, clean and dry end of your swab.




What will happen when you put the soapy swab gently onto the colors?  Look!




It even continues impressively swirling and churning after you have lifted the swab out of the milk!




Try putting your swab in different areas of the plate to see what new patterns form.




NOTE:  It is very important not to stir, just hold your swab still in the milk.

Make sure you have plenty of milk and food coloring on hand for this because your kids won’t want to do it just one time.  This kept my 5 year-old entertained for at least an hour!





Many thanks to Steve Spangler’s Science Experiments for this really fun idea! Steve Spangler has a good explanation of the science behind this colorful display. You can read it here.


This is my contribution to this month’s Unplugged Project theme of soap.  Can you come up with a soap-themed project?  If so, please join in and add a link or comment to the original project post.  You can read more about the Unplugged Project here!

17 Responses to “Fireworks in a Dish”

  1. Julie Moses says:

    Did you try to make a print with this? I am going to try with my boys today to see how it will work. I am thinking that if you just put a piece of paper on the top, squish down a little, and them pull off and scrape, that the color patterns will transfer. I’ll try to remember to let you know if it works.

  2. Julie Moses says:

    You can check out pics of our results here…
    To make a print, it is better to soak your paper in milk and add the color and soap directly to the paper as the milk isn’t really think enough to suspend the color the way shaving cream or oil would.

  3. Mom Unplugged says:

    Great question! I thought about trying a print since visually it was so reminiscent of our cool marbleizing project, but we got caught up in the movement of it all. I’ll be interested to see how it turns out if you try it.

  4. Mom Unplugged says:

    Thanks so much for the update Julie! The pictures are lovely! I appreciate the tips on how to do it. Soaking the paper directly in milk is a really good idea. Would you be interested in adding this to the Soap Unplugged Project post either as a link to a post about it on your blog (although it appears you aren’t really blogging right now) or a comment? It is a wonderful idea and I thank you so much for sharing it with us!

  5. Jennifer says:

    This is amazing! I can’t wait to share it. My kids love anything colorful, it is definitely going on the To Do list!

    Visiting from Natural Parents Network!

  6. I have followed your blog for a few months now and have left my thoughts here once in a while. Just want to say thank you for al the inspiring work you are doing with you kids.
    This science activity looks so much fun. I watched this with my 5 year old and we are going to try this today! :)
    Greetings from India.

  7. Julie Moses says:

    I will try to get that one up. I am planning on doing some lessons in my art class exploring the overlaps of science and art, so this would be a perfect example- now to find then time!

  8. Paula says:

    What a coincidence! I did this with my kids today minutes before checking your blog. I found a tutorial online and thought it would be cool to try it :^)

    My two five-year-olds also had a wonderful time with it and were entertained for nearly an hour. They are so into experiments now :^)

    A big hug from sunny Barcelona.

  9. Mom Unplugged says:

    Oh how funny, what a coincidence! “Great minds think alike.” My 5 year-old did it for about an hour too. Your results were very pretty. It is a really amazing experiment isn’t it? Thanks so much for commenting! Greetings from Arizona, USA!

  10. Mom Unplugged says:

    Oh I know all about time issues! Good luck, and I really hope you’ll be able to write something. Overlapping science and art is something that I am really interested in right now too. Have fun!

  11. Mom Unplugged says:

    Hi Rashmie,

    If you try it, let me know what you think! This is perfect for a 5 year-old, well anyone really. I even had a 25 year-old try it and enjoy it!

    And thank you so much for your very nice comment. It really means a lot to me that people follow and enjoy the blog. Greetings from Arizona, USA!

  12. Mom Unplugged says:

    Enjoy! I guarantee that your kids (and you) will really love it!

  13. […] and you will forget you have children in the house. You could even set them up with something like this and let them get […]

  14. Nikki says:

    I love this idea! I am a fledging blogger (just for myself really, makes me feel I have achieved something in a day) and ex primary teacher. I will be filing this idea away for use when my little one is less little and have forwarded to friends who are still teaching, I may just have to have a play just for me! Its cool/interesting blogs like yours that inspired me to have a go and continue to make we want to try harder x

  15. […] activities.  Browse through the archives to gather ideas.  Be sure to check out her cool Fireworks in a Dish […]

  16. Julie Moses says:

    I finally got a blog post up about this. Come check it out on May 2nd!

  17. shari says:

    love this!!
    did it with my kids today, after remembering your blog, but i just did a dropper of soap, and dropped it into the center. that was cool too. i’ll have to try the q tip next time.

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