Snow Globe Science

Art Science
Time 2 hours
Age 7 & up
Group Size 4 or more
Tags Experiment, Gift, Holiday,   more...

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

It is easy to introduce an art activity by telling children what materials they will use, based on what you know works best. But by asking them to conduct investigations around possible materials, they will not only be engaging in scientific thinking and learning about experimental design; they will also have a clearer understanding of the materials themselves, how they behave, and why they are chosen for use.


Gather materials for your students to include in their snow globes. For suggestions on where to purchase jars and glitter online, see Suggestions in the “Make it Better” step. If you have time, make a snow globe.

The small plastic objects and recycled materials will be used to create the “scene” that is placed inside the snow globe. These objects need to be small enough to stand up in the glass or plastic jars, and narrow enough to fit on the inside of the jar lids. And because they will be in water and other liquids, they should be made of plastic. Some non-corrosive metals might work too, but plastic is the safest bet. If you are having trouble finding good, fun objects for the snow globes, you can purchase cheap items online. See Suggestions in the “Make it Better” step for ideas.

As a precursor to this activity (or as an alternative if you are working with younger children and/or want a simpler experience) you might have children first make snow globes using the instructions in the Snow Globes activity from this curriculum, which is an artistic exercise rather than a scientific one. Once they have made snow globes using water and one kind of glitter in that activity, you can ask them if they can think of other liquids and other shapes of glitter that might work even better and then introduce this “Snow Globe Science” challenge.

Snow Globe Science

Suggested Materials

  • 1 small glass or plastic jar per student (large baby food jars work well)
  • Mineral oil
  • Water
  • Different kinds of glitter (several bottles)
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Small plastic objects and recycled materials (See Preparation, below)
  • Pipe thread tape (5-6 rolls – found in any hardware store)
  • Dish soap (you only need a little)
  • Toothpicks (or plastic forks)
  • Measuring spoons

Optional Materials

  • Glycerin
  • Stopwatches

Make it Matter

Opening Discussion

Ask your students if they have ever held or seen snow globes before. What do you do with them? What is usually in them? Record their list of what is contained inside a snow globe (this should include the objects that make the “scene”; a liquid; and “snow”). Tell them that they will be making their own snow globes, but that first they need to figure out what the best materials are for making them. If they are unfamiliar with snow globes, show them the one that you made, and shake it up to show off its snowing action.

The Challenge

Discover how to make the best snow globe possible using the materials provided.


Make it Happen

Doing the Activity

  1. Tell your students that they will be creating their own snow globes and show them the materials that you have provided for them. Tell them that before they make their snow globes, you would like them to experiment and discover which materials work the best. NOTE: If you are working with older children, you might have them design their own experiments, rather than have you describe the experiments to them listed below. Take note of the materials suggestions, though. Impress upon your students that they should only use a little of each material for their tests so as not to waste them.
  2. Divide the group into teams of 2 or 3, and tell half of these teams that you would like them to test the LIQUID that works best, and the other half that you would like them to test the GLITTER. Distribute jars, water, mineral oil, glycerin (if you are using it), dish soap, toothpicks and measuring spoons to each of the LIQUID teams. The LIQUID teams should also get some glitter, but should only use one kind, and each team should use the same kind. They should also only use exactly 1/2 teaspoon of glitter for every experiment. The GLITTER teams should work ONLY with water, but they will try out different kinds and amounts of glitter.
  3. Before they experiment, share some information about the materials. The dish soap is to be used with the toothpick (or plastic fork)—right before adding the glitter, teams can touch the toothpick into the dish soap to just get a drop, then touch that soapy toothpick to the surface of the water in the jar. This will help the glitter not float on top of the water. Also, encourage them to test the glycerin a little at a time, as something that they add to the water, rather than using it as a liquid by itself. Glycerin should be measured in 1/4 teaspoons. Hand out stopwatches (if using), and ask students how they think they might use them.

LIQUID teams should experiment in order to answer these questions:

GLITTER teams should answer these questions:


Make it Click

Let’s Talk About It

After they have been experimenting for 10 minutes or so, ask teams to stop and come together as a larger group to talk about what they have discovered so far. How are teams testing these materials? Are they carefully measuring their materials and making sure to use the same amount of each material when comparing? What happens if they use too much glitter? Will they be able to see the object in the snow globe?


Make it Better

Build On What They Talked About

Have teams return to complete their tests. When they are done, ask them to report their findings to the other teams. Make a chart detailing Glitter/Liquid combinations, and whether the “snow” falls quickly or slowly in each combination. Ask your students if it is better to have fast, medium, or slow-falling snow. Is it possible that some children might want their snow to fall at different rates in their snow globes?

Now you should encourage children to each create their own snow globes:

  1. Distribute a jar to each student, and ask them to decide for themselves which liquid and which glitter they would like to use. Show them the objects/recycled material you have provided for them to create their snow globe “scenes”. Tell them that they will first create their scenes, then they can fill the jars with liquid and glitter.
  2. Plug in the hot glue gun (you should be in charge of this unless you are working with older children), and tell them that they will be gluing their objects to the inside part of the lid of their jar.
  3. Give them time to create their scenes. For younger children, have them bring their lids and objects to you to glue. They should tell you exactly where they want each object. Make sure they have tested to see if the objects fit by screwing the jar onto the lid with the objects placed on the lid. If the objects won’t fit, they’ll need to rethink their scenes. For older children, you might let them do their own gluing, but again stress that they test to see that the objects fit before gluing them on.
  4. Have kids tightly wrap some of the pipe thread tape around the threads of the jar—3 or 4 turns around the jar should do. The tape can be pressed down and will adhere to itself—this tape will provide a water-tight seal between the lid and the jar. Alternatively, kids could glue their jars shut, though this is not recommended (if they glue them shut, they can’t get them open again!).
  5. While their glued scenes are drying, bring the kids together to talk about what they have created so far. How did they decide what objects to use? Did they create a scene from their lives, or one that they imagined? How much glitter do they think they should put in their snow globes? Did the GLITTER teams come up with an amount that works best? Remind them that they can always add more glitter, but they won’t be able to get it out if they use too much, so they should probably start with a little.
  6. After their glued “scenes” have dried for at least a few minutes, have children put their chosen liquid(s) in their jars. Make sure they use the dish soap/toothpick method before adding their chosen amount of glitter.
  7. Have them add their glitter, but easy does it! Each child should start with just a little glitter, screw the lid on and shake the snow globe up. Are they happy with the results? The glitter may be clumpy at first, but that will change. If they want more “snow”, they can add more until they are satisfied.
  8. Make sure their “scenes” are glued to their lids and dried before screwing them on, and voila! Instant winter wonderland.


  • This is a great activity for kids to create winter holiday gifts for their families. Encourage them to create snow globe “scenes” that have some meaning to the people they are making their snow globes for.
  • For younger children, or a more simple activity, try the Snow Globes activity from this curriculum.
  • Large baby food jars work well and you can likely ask families to bring them in. If you would rather purchase jars, they can be found online at several sites. McMaster-Carr (click here to visit their website) carries wide-mouthed plastic and glass jars, both of which work well for this activity. If purchasing plastic jars, get the Wide-Mouth Polystyrene Jar, 6 oz; 2-3/4” Diameter; 2-3/4” Overall Height. If purchasing glass, try the Wide-Mouth Glass Jar Phenolic Cap, 4 oz; 2-3/8” Diameter; 2-5/8” Overall Height. Glass jars are more expensive than the plastic, though they feel much more “special”.
  • Several websites sell very inexpensive small plastic objects that would work well in these snow globes. In particular, Oriental Trading Company (click here) has a wide and cheap assortment.
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