DO Try This at Home: Tornado in a Jar

DO Try This at Home

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – If you are running out of fun, educational activities to do with your kids, here is something new to try!

Here is an experiment to learn more about tornadoes!

First, let’s learn about tornado formation and safety.

For tornado formation, you need ingredients like instability (or fuel for strong to severe storms) and a lot of wind both at the surface and higher up in the atmosphere. Those winds create a rotating tube of air.

In a thunderstorm, there are updrafts, or an upward current of air. This updraft picks up the rotating tube of air.

With the right amount of moisture, instability, and wind, a wall cloud will descend from the storm.

That column of air continues to build downward, creating a funnel cloud. If the cloud does not reach the ground, it is just that, a cloud.

If the column of rotating air connects to the ground, it’s a tornado.

It is important to understand the difference between a Tornado Watch, Warning, and Emergency.

A tornado WATCH means conditions are favorable for strong to severe storms. A Tornado WARNING indicates there is rotation in a storm and you need to take action OR a tornado has been spotted on the ground. A Tornado EMERGENCY means a tornado has been spotted and is causing significant damage.

In times when a tornado warning is issued, you need to get into a tornado safe place.

REMEMBER: you want to avoid windows, and exterior walls, so go into a closet, a stairwell, an interior hallway or a bathroom. Put as many walls between you and the outside. But, the safest place to be in, is a basement, if you have one.

Here are the materials you will need for the “Tornado in a Jar” experiment:

  • A mason jar
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • Glitter
  • Optional: Food coloring

Have your ingredients? Great! Here’s what to do:

  • Add water to the mason jar, almost to the top
  • Add a small amount of dish soap, this acts as the cloud
  • Add a dash of glitter, this acts as debris
  • Optional: add food coloring to add color and to show the tornado a bit better
  • Close the jar, make sure the lid is on tight!
  • Spin the jar fast! Watch as the tornado forms!

Tried the experiment? Send me a picture on social media!

Have an experiment idea? Send me an email at

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