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Ocean in a Bottle

This activity teaches children all about waves in the ocean while regulating their emotions and building a better understanding of water surfaces.

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How do we create waves?

Bring the ocean to you with this fun activity! Simply add some water and vegetable oil in a jar. Then, tilt the jar to make your own waves come to life right before your very eyes. This jar will help develop children’s’ patience, all while learning more about water surfaces. 

📚 Books to explore: Waves: Physical Science for Kids by Andi Diehn; The Great Wave by Veronique Massenot and Bruno Pilorget; and Let’s Dive: Into the Ocean by Timothy Knapman.

🌊Facts about waves: Waves are created by energy moving. Most of the time, this is from wind blowing and disturbing the surface. 

🐚 Add to the bottle: Feel free to add any shells or small plastic animals to the bottle.


For this activity you will need:

Mason jar or clear water bottle 

Vegetable oil or baby oil 


Elmer’s glue

Blue food coloring (optional)

Learning Outcomes






Focusing attention


Step 1:

Fill the jar ¾ full with water. Mix with blue food coloring if you have that available.

Step 2:

Fill the remainder of the bottle with vegetable oil.

Step 3:

Add Elmer’s glue to the inside of the cap and seal it tight. Wait for it to dry completely.

Step 4:

To make a wave, tilt and gently shake the bottle. Watch the wave action in your sea. Do not over shake.

⬆️ For older preschoolers: Let them take the reins on this one and let them fill the jar themselves.

⬇️ For younger toddlers: Let your child mix the food coloring in.

Playful Questions

What creates a wave? 

Can a wave stop? Why?

Are waves big or small? 

Where can we see a wave?

Are there different types of waves?

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