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Fun Science for Kids: Tornado Tubes

exploring the force of a vortex with tornado tubes

Have you ever played with Tornado Tubes (affiliate link)? I ordered one for our family because I had fond memories of exploring them as a kid! We tried making our own with duct tape first, but had trouble with it leaking. Tornado tubes are super simple to use: screw one end onto an empty soda bottle (be sure to remove the plastic ring first for a good fit), fill that container roughly 1/3-1/2 full of water, then screw a second soda bottle (ring also removed) on top. We added some purple glitter to ours to make the vortex easier to see (and because glitter is pretty).

 

 

learning about tornadoes with a tornado tube

This is such a fun way for kids to learn about the force created by a vortex – the same force that makes a tornado leave so much destruction in its wake. The water will eventually move into a vortex (tornado) shape, but you can speed up the process by swirling the water around.

playing with tornado tubes!

 

 

If you don’t swirl the bottle, the water will go through slowly at the beginning, because a little water will go through, then some air will come up from the lower bottle, then a little more water will go through. Once the vortex has been created, the air can move up through a neat little hold in the middle, so it can move smoothly up into the upper bottle as the water flows down!

I love simple visual science experiments like this one – so kid-friendly! Here are a few other kid-friendly experiments that we enjoy:

Did you play with tornado tubes as a kid? Have you ever made the duct tape version without it leaking water? Have you done this experiment with your own kids? Is there a science experiment from your childhood that you think the kids and I should explore?

A hands-on science and math resource for parents and educators

MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

27 thoughts on “Fun Science for Kids: Tornado Tubes”

    1. We don’t drink soda either, so we got ours from friends. There are so many fun things you can do with soda bottles – I kind of wish water came in them!

  1. Very cool experiment. I know this isn’t an experiment, but remember those submarines that came in Capn Crunch that were supposed to sink and rise to the surface when you put baking soda in them? I wish they’d worked. That would be kind of like a science project.

  2. Love it! John has 3D printed tornado tube connectors. I think it’s more work/hassle than it’s worth with the 3D printed connectors. I’d rather purchase them; they are relatively inexpensive for a lot of fun.

    1. I guess you have to calculate in the fun of successfully 3D printing them? They are pretty inexpensive, so a nice little science investment :)

  3. Elisa | BlissfulE

    This looks fun! I haven’t tried it with soda bottles, but we enjoy watching water go down the drain! I like your explanation about the air transfer – very clear!

  4. Very nice, Mama. I love anything that creates interest and wonder about science. Especially for girls/women.

    Great experiment! Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. We watched this done at a children’s museum awhile back and Stefan loved it. I’ve been wanting to try it at home but had forgotten about it. We’ll have to put it on our list to do…after the holidays and baby! :-)

  6. No – we’ve never done this but it looks like so much fun!! I especially like that you added glitter to make it easier to see.

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