Float and Sink – Research-Backed At-Home Activities – Bay Area Discovery Museum

Float and Sink Creative Chemistry

Even the most everyday materials—like dish soap and shampoo—can be tools for creative learning! Experimentation with these materials is a great way to learn scientific concepts—like density—through hands-on observation.

Learning Goals

  • Be Curious
  • Build STEM Knowledge
  • Communicate Thinking

Tips for Adults

  • Ask children to predict what might happen to the materials and to explain their thinking. After they try it, ask them to explain what they observed and why they think their results came out this way.
  • Ask children what other materials they’d like to test out next, and what they think might happen. (Hint: this experiment can work well with anything, even diet soda vs. regular soda or different types of fruit!) Then, have fun with endless possible experiments!

Materials Required

  • Medium-large clear plastic container
  • Water
  • Household substances such as dish soap, shaving cream, oil, shampoo, conditioner, or other commonly used liquid materials
  • Measuring cups
  • Liquid watercolor or food coloring (optional)
  • Pencil and paper (optional)


  • Fill your clear plastic container with warm water, and gather the liquid materials you’ll be using.
  • Give children time to play with the materials so they become familiar with how they look, feel, and smell.
  • Ask children to guess whether each material will sink or float in the water, then try out each material one-by-one to see what happens. Encourage them to record their observations, and whether or not their predictions were correct.
  • Encourage children to use measuring cups to try different amounts of the materials. Draw their attention to the differences and similarities between the way the materials respond to each other, and to the water.
Support BADM during COVID-19
Bay Area Discovery Museum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing children with research-backed early learning experiences that inspire creative problem solving. We need your help now more than ever.

Scroll to Top