Ocean in a Bottle with 3 Simple Ingredients

Make an ocean in a bottle with 3 easy ingredients.  One of the fastest and easiest-ever science activities for preschoolers.

I love to make homemade toys for the hooligans.  Discovery bottles are always a favourite here.  They look so beautiful, and no matter what we fill them with. This particular ocean in a bottle has to be the most amazing looking bottle we’ve made yet though!  It was SO easy to make, and you likely already have everything you need on hand.


Ocean in a bottle


This oil and water experiment isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination.  It’s a classic preschool science activity that’s been around for years.  I actually can’t believe we haven’t done it until now!  Yesterday, I happened upon this learning discovery bottle over at Play Trains, and I decided we’d make an ocean bottle of our own today.


bubbles in ocean bottle

To make our Ocean in a Bottle, we used:

  • water
  • cooking oil (we used canola, but vegetable would work well)
  • blue food colouring
  • large bottle (2 litre pop bottles work well, but we used a mouthwash bottle with a child-safe lid)
  • funnel

If you want to explain the scientific details to your child, pop over and check out this article explaining why oil and water don’t mix.

Making your ocean bottle:

I didn’t have a 2L pop bottle on hand, so we used an empty mouthwash bottle.   I like that the lid is child-safe, and too challenging for little hands to twist open.  If you’re using a bottle that’s not child-safe, you might want to run a little hot-glue around the inside of the bottle lid.

Fill approximately 1/3 of your bottle with water.

Add several drops of food colouring.

Have your child shake the bottle to disperse the food colouring.


child shaking bottle of water and food colouring


Now, simply top up the bottle with oil.  I filled ours right to the top and then popped the lid on.

Let the fun begin!

Tip the bottle upside down and watch your ocean come to life.


Ocean in a bottle


The pictures really don’t do this activity justice.

You have to see it in action.  The way the waves roll cascade inside the bottle is just beautiful!




To see the big blobs of colour swoosh and fall through the yellow oil is really fascinating.

The more you agitate the bottle, the more the bubbly the ocean becomes.  Set your bottle down occasionally to let the bubbles settle, and then start all over again.


bubbles in oil and blue water


Doesn’t it look amazing?


For more easy, awesome science experiments for kids, check out our:

Water Displacement Experiment

Salt, Glue and Watercolour Art

Wax Resist Art

Melting Ice with Salt and Water

Colour Mixing Experiment 

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  1. happyhooligans says

    Sorry about that! It was super-late when I finished the post, and I didn’t catch that error. I’ve fixed it up now. Thanks so much for letting me know!

  2. aletao says

    This is just WAY cool! I LOVE it and as an adult, I’d want to try it. I can’t wait for my son to get a little older and do cool stuff like this with him. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Selina Strong says

    Please revise the instructions for ocean in a bottle. Oil is one of the three ingredients, but there is no mention of adding the oil to the bottle. Surely it is either added first ( although the food coloring doesn’t mix in ) or second? Thanks.

  4. Michelle Bordeaux says

    This is really cool. I was thinking about doing it as the craft for an Easter Egg Hunt next year (2015). I was also thinking about buying small plastic sea creatures and/or small shells to add a few in. Have you tried anything like that before?

    • happyhooligans says

      I haven’t in the oil and water bottle, Michelle, but I’ve added odds and ends to bottles that I’ve filled with water or hair gel or coloured rice! I think it’s a great idea!

  5. Sarah says

    In case you are tempted to add glitter for a touch of glam… Don’t do it! Maybe someone who knows science better than I do can explain it, but it looks like the glitter catches everything up and emulsifies it , so it takes a very long time for the oil in the water to separate again! I just threw everything away and started over!!

      • misty says

        I think thats what happen to mine! right off! boo boo! Wish I had read this before I shook it like a crazy person! :( now I have to go to the store and buy more oil

  6. Anna says

    We just made these for a preschool program. We called them sink-or-float bottles. We added small seashells and the larger glitter shapes. It was a great demonstration of what the word displacement means. The kids and parents loved them. :)

  7. April says

    Can you make this in a smaller bottle?
    I’d love to do this as a take home craft for my son’s birthday party, but I don’t know that I want to go in search of 14 2 liter bottles. Thanks!

  8. Coni Q says

    Ok, I am 57 years old and I love this. My son is 32 and have no grandbabies yet so this is for ME.
    I am decorating my home in the beachy coastal style and this would be a great way to bring the ocean into my home since there is no ocean near where I live in “Missouri”. I will put it in a large pretty bottle and sit it near my sea shells and let people shake it up and admire it when they come to visit. Thanks!

  9. Bev Sutton says

    I’m an 8th grade science teacher … and believe me … many of your experiments will enchant and delight 8th graders too. Thank you for these that show kids that science is interesting and FUN!

  10. Sarah says

    I used this for a white elephant recycling themed gift exchange for my cub scout. My son loved doing this, we used a baby oil bottle, bonus we used the last third of the oil for the project and topped it off with some veg oil. He chose blue also. And since it’s for scouts, we used plastic putty glue to permanently (I hope)glue shut the lid. Should be fun! Thanks!

  11. Heidi says

    Trying to think of a way to use this as decor for an Ocean themed wedding. My niece is getting married next year and I think something like this would be awesome to display, maybe on tables. Just not quite sure on bottle types and if putting in sea shells would work. Any suggestions??? Pls help!

    • happyhooligans says

      I’ve similar bottles with shells added, Heidi. As for how to display them, there’s a brand of bottled water called Voss. I’m not sure where you are, but if you have it there (in your grocery stores), you could use those bottles. It’s pricier than regular bottled water though, so you may need some pals splurge on it once in a while, and give you the bottle when they’re done. You could also check Michael’s or Hobby Lobby for interesting looking containers with lids that seal tight.

      • tk says

        The easiest place for me to find VOSS water locally is at Walgreen’s drugstores. They are often on sale, too, for $3 for two bottles.

  12. mae says

    I was so excited to do this but I tried it twice and it didn’t work. I ended up with a layer of blue water and a layer of oil on the top no matter how much I shook it. Was it because I used vegetable oil?

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