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Floating Sharks - Oil and Water Experiment

Sharks — the mysterious creature of the deep sea...but do they float or sink? This fun activity will have your child learning more about buoyancy and how objects interact with water to float or sink.

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Do sharks sink or float?

Try this activity to teach children more about animals that live in the ocean. This easy science activity will spark children’s imagination as they learn while having fun. Simply grab a large bin and fill it with water. Then fill two water bottles — one with water and one with cooking oil. Ask the children to predict which one will sink or float and see what happens once you drop them in the water! 

📚 Books to explore: How to Survive as a Shark by Kristen Foote; Hark! A Shark!: All About Sharks by Bonnie Worth; and Land Shark by Beth Ferry.

🦈 Did you know? Sharks are made of cartilage rather than bone, which helps them float. They also have a very oily liver. Take some time to look up some other shark facts with your child!

🌎 Planet’s little helpers:  Talk more about how you can clean up the ocean and keep garbage out of the bodies of fish.


For this activity you will need:

2 water bottles 

Cooking oil 


Large container 

Black marker

(optional) Plastic shark

Learning Outcomes




Cause and effect exploration


Responding with joy to the predictable outcomes of exploration


Step 1:

Fill the large container with water.

Step 2:

Use the marker to decorate the bottles to look like sharks (e.g. drawing teeth).

Step 3:

Fill one bottle with water and the other with oil. Fill each bottle approximately ¾ full.

Step 4: 

Add each bottle one at a time to see if they sink or float!

⬆️ For older preschoolers:  Have your child predict what will happen before adding the bottles. They can also record their predictions and the outcomes on a piece of paper.

⬇️ For younger toddlers: They may want to see other things that sink or float so grab a couple of plastic toys that can go into the water.

Playful Questions

What color are sharks? 

Do you think sharks float or sink? Why?

How do you think sharks breathe?

What do sharks eat? 

Can a shark swim backward?

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