Activity Time: Skittle Science

Let’s have some fun with candy! Today we have two experiments with Skittles!

If you don’t have Skittles, jelly beans will work.  

Experiment #1 Make a Rainbow

Supplies needed: 

  • A plate or bowl 
  • Skittles or Jellybeans
  • Warm water

You will want to use a plate or wide bowl that has a flat bottom and has enough of an edge to hold water.  It’s best if it is white. I only had a clear pie plate, so I placed it on a white pad of paper so I could see the experiment easily. 

Place your skittles or jelly beans in a circle.  I chose a rainbow pattern to go around the circle, but you can put them in any order you’d like!

Pour the water into the center of the bowl until you have water covering the bottom of the plate.  Do this slowly so that you don’t disturb your skittles.

Now, watch a rainbow grow!  I was surprised how fast the colors flowed.   

What happens if you use cold water?  Do the colors still make a rainbow? Does it change how fast the color flows? What happens if you use a different liquid?  

I wanted to see what happened if I stirred the rainbow.  I slowly dragged a bamboo skewer in a spiral through the water. That was fun, but too much stirring made it brown.

It’s even fun to make “paintings” with this flowing paint.  I didn’t have enough Skittles, so I added jelly beans as well.  

Skittles Experiment #2:  Rainbow in a Jar

This experiment explores density in liquids.  We will build a rainbow in a jar by making some colored water more dense than others! We are going to dissolve more and more Skittles in the same volume of water.  (Jelly beans will work in this experiment as well.)

Once each color is dissolved, the amount of sugar in the water will be at different concentrations.  The more sugar, the more dense (heavier) the liquid. You will be able to put the different colors into one jar and have them stay separate!

Here is what you will need.

  • Skittles
  • A small cup for each color of skittles
  • Warm water 
  • Tablespoon
  • A clear jar
  • Pipette, plastic syringe, or a medicine dropper. (If you don’t have this, a spoon will work.)
  1. Sort and count out your skittles.  It worked out to have my colors in a rainbow order, because I had the most red and only a few purple.  If you don’t have enough for this order, just change them around! Make sure to keep track of how many skittles of each color you use–this will matter for later. I used:
    • 4 purple
    • 6 green
    • 8 yellow
    • 10 orange
    • 12 red
  1. Place 2 tablespoons of warm water in each of the cups.  The warmer the water, the better. An adult might need to help with this.
  2. Dissolve your Skittles in the warm water.  Be sure to keep the colors separate.
    • I found that I needed to microwave the cups to get them to fully dissolve.
  3. Allow your colored liquid to cool down to room temperature. 

Now we can build our rainbow in the jar!  You will start with the color that had the most skittles.  If you followed my quantities above, you will start with red, then add orange, yellow, green, and end with purple.  Remember these match the densities of the amount of sugar in water. Put the most dense (heaviest) on the bottom. 

  1. Add your first color into the large clear jar.  
  2. Slowly add the next color (orange).  
    • You will use the pipette or syringe to draw up some liquid. 
    • Place the tip of the pipette on the inside wall of the jar
    • Squeeze gently to allow the color to run down the inside of the jar.

The colors will mix slightly when you add the new color, but they should quickly separate. However, if you go too fast, the colors will mix too much and not separate into layers.

If you don’t have a pipette, syringe, or medicine dropper; you can use a spoon.  Place the tip of the spoon on the inside wall of the jar, and slowly pour your colored liquid onto the spoon so that it runs down the inside of the jar.  

At the end, you will have a jar with layered colors! What does your rainbow look like? I hope you had fun with these Skittles experiments.


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