My First Experiment Tornado Tubes
A young child's natural curiosity and sense of wonder combined with an age appropriate activity makes for an unforgettable learning experience. Encourage your child's curiosity and love of learning from the toddler years, through preschool, into the school years and beyond. Here is an easy, hands-on experiment to do with your children no matter their age.
Your child's first introduction to science must be fun and filled with hands-on play. Select an activity that helps them focus on the "gee-whiz" element and encourages them to try something new. The Tornado Tube experiment is a great example of an activity that encourages discovery play with a science twist.
- Tornado Tube
- 2 Bottles
- Styrofoam beads
- Monopoly houses
- Colored lamp oil
- Vegetable oil
- Color changing tablets or food coloring
- Liquid soap
- Pearl Swirl
- Small letters or numbers
All of these activities are variations of a classic science toy called a Tornado Tube. This specially molded tube is used to connect 2 plastic soda bottles. With young children it's especially important to use smaller plastic soda bottles to make them easier to handle and control.
All of the activities mentioned are included in the Tornado Tube Book by Steve Spangler.
Here's the classic experiment:
- Fill one of the plastic soda bottles 3/4 full with water.
- Use the Tornado Tube connector to attach the second bottle.
- Swirl the liquid in the bottle to create a tornado-like funnel as the water moves from the upper to the lower bottle. It's best to use small plastic soda bottles (16 or 20 oz for younger children).
Try these variations:
- Add food coloring to the water.
- Add a pinch of glitter to the water.
- Add a drop of liquid soap to the water.
- Use fine sand in place of the water to make an hour glass.
- Fill the bottles with tiny Styrofoam beads and water.
- Color the water then add some vegetable oil. (The oil will not tint, so color the water.)
- Add a little colored lamp oil to the water.
- Add Monopoly houses to the bottle for a fun "Auntie Em Auntie Em It's a twister!"
- Mix a little Pearl Swirl into colored water for an ocean effect.
- Include beads or small letters, like the child's name so they can watch the letters spin around while trying to spell out their name.
- Use the activity to introduce new vocabulary: water, bubbles, spin, twist, swirl, tornado (or if you're really ambitious... "vortex").
- Identify the difference between air and water.
- Compare the differences between the various projects.
- Count how long it takes for the water to flow from bottle to bottle.
- Use the twisting, turning tornado to teach your child how to do a "Tornado Dance."
How Does It Work?
The swirling action of the water in the bottles creates a vortex. In a real tornado, rising hot air collides with a cold air front to cause the air molecules to move in a circular motion.