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Science Sunday: Rain cloud in a cup

Let's find out what happens when it 'rains'!

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In honor of Sunday morning’s rain, we’re going to make a rain cloud in a cup (or jar)! I do this experiment in schools a ton, so I like to use plastic cups so I can reuse them and to avoid breakage.

Make sure you do this only with parental supervision and you do NOT drink anything.

This experiment is really easy and you may already have a lot of these items at home:

  • A cup or jar
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Shaving cream
  • Flat surface

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First, I like to lay everything out on my flat surface for easy viewing and easy clean up.

Second, put water in your container. I typically do ½ or ¾ a cup because if you do too much water, the ‘cloud’ will overflow.

Third, I make the ‘rain’. This is just water and blue food coloring. Note: you can use any color you’d like!

Fourth, you want to add the shaving cream to the top of your container as your cloud. This may be a little bit of trial and error to make sure your cloud doesn’t overflow, but I’ve found that near the top of the container works best.

Finally, you can take your food coloring and start pouring it over your cloud. A smaller cup or pipette seems to work best for this, especially if the kids are trying to saturate the cloud A LOT.

How does this represent rain and clouds?

The water in your container represents the atmosphere, the shaving cream represents a cloud, and the food coloring represents rain. As the ‘rain’ saturates the cloud, it becomes heavy and cannot hold the water anymore.

This will lead to it “raining” in your jar – just like real rain! The blue food coloring makes it a lot easier for the kids to see the rain falling.

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