How to Explain to Preschoolers Why Oil Floats in Water


Teaching children about science should begin as early as preschool. The concepts you introduce should be simple and easy for the children to understand. You can begin with an experiment on density. Explaining density can be done with both words and a live demonstration. This demonstration will answer the question as to why water and oil do not mix.

Things You'll Need

  • Glass cup
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Oil
  • Ask one child to place 6 ounces of water in a glass cup.

  • Choose another child from the class and have her add 6 drops of food coloring to the glass and stir to combine. Let the children know that the food color is being used so that you can easily spot the oil.

  • Locate a third volunteer to pour 2 tablespoons of oil in the glass. Have the volunteer try to mix the oil in with the colored water. Allow a few minutes for observation.

  • Explain to the children that density is how much something weighs. When a liquid weighs less than another liquid, it floats. The heavier liquid remains at the bottom.

  • Ask students which liquid weighs less. They will respond with the word oil. Ask the opposite question of which liquid is heavier. The children will tell you the water is heavier.

Tips & Warnings

  • Continue the experiment by allowing children to place different objects in the glass of water to discover whether the object or the water is denser. Use an apple, orange, eraser, paper clip and a piece of cork.

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  • Photo Credit Abstract image of oil drops in water image by George Dolgikh from
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