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Layers of the Ocean - Activity for Kids

This fun science activity uses everyday household items to teach children all about layers of the ocean, density, liquid matter, and how sunlight travels.

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What lies below the surface?

This activity will help children explore the different layers of the ocean and build a better understanding of density by watching how light travels through it. In a mason jar, add corn syrup, dish soap, water, vegetable oil, and rubbing alcohol with food coloring to help create the different layers of the ocean. 

📚 Books to explore: The Big Book of the Blue by Yuval Zommer; Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle; and Hello, World! Ocean Life by Jill McDonald. 

🌊 Can you name all the layers? There’s the sunlight layer, twilight layer, midnight layer, abyss layer,  and trench layer. 

🦺 Stay safe! Some smells might bother some children so be cautious of what they are breathing in.


For this activity you will need:

Large mason jar 

Vegetable oil 


Blue dish soap 

Rubbing alcohol

Corn syrup 

5 cups 

5 spoons 

Food coloring (optional - blue, dark blue and green)

Learning Outcomes




Reasoning logically


Making logical connections


Step 1:

Make the trench layer of the ocean. Add ¼ cup of corn syrup to a cup and use a spoon to mix with food coloring to make it as dark as possible. Pour into the mason jar. 

Step 2:

Grab another cup and add ¼ cup of dish soap and food coloring to make it darker but not as dark as the corn syrup. Mix well and pour into the mason jar.

Step 3:

Grab another cup and fill with ¼ cup of water and add dark blue food coloring. Mix well and pour into the mason jar.

Step 4:

Add ¼ cup of vegetable oil into the mason jar 

Step 5:

Grab the final cup and add ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol and mix with light blue food coloring. Add to the mason jar.

⬆️ For older preschoolers: Have them do the mixing and pouring with supervision.

⬇️ For younger toddlers: Let them help with the mixing and pouring.

Playful Questions

How deep is the ocean? 

Is there light at the bottom of the ocean? 

Is the ocean cold or hot? Why?

What animals live at the bottom of the ocean?

Can you swim to the bottom of the ocean? Why?

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