Cloud in a Cup

Cloud in a Cup: Condensation Science Experiment for Preschool

Make your own Cloud Condensation with this fun cloud in a cup science experiment!

This activity requires adult supervision.

Cloud in a Cup: Condensation Science Experiment for Preschool

April showers bring May flowers…or so the saying goes 😉

We woke up this morning to hail coming down hard. Livia squealed in delight as she ran towards the door. Thinking it was snow it took everything I had to keep her from darting out into the quarter size hail. After some explanation that it would hurt her head to get hit with one, we finally settled on sitting at the window watching the ground turn white and the creek flow over its bank.

After the storm passed and the sun came back out we had an absolute blast running around filling our sand buckets up with hail.

Cloud in a Cup using Hail: Condensation Science Experiment for Preschool

Which led to questions…ton of questions.

Where does rain come from?

How does ice get in the clouds?

And how do clouds form…

Which presented the perfect opportunity to do a science experiment!

Cloud in a Cup
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  1. ice
  2. hot water
  3. a cup
  4. a bowl or plate that is big enough to cover the top of the cup
  5. air freshener, hair spray, or other aerosol can.
  1. Warm up the glass jar by rinsing it with warm tap water.
  2. Add about 1-2 inches of hot water to the glass jar. {I tried using hot tap water. The water temperature was warm but not hot. This water temperature did not make a cloud for us. I heated the water in the microwave and waited until it was bubbling – about 1 minute 30 seconds. The water temperature was about 130 °F.
  3. Put ice in a small bowl/plate/or upside down jar lid and place the bowl on top of the glass jar.
  4. Add a quick spray of air freshener or hairspray to the jar (we used sunblock). Lift the ice bowl, spray, and quickly replace the bowl. {Try to spray the air freshener or hairspray into the middle of the jar. If you hit the side of the jar it may make it hard to see the cloud inside the jar.}
  5. A cloud will form inside the jar as soon as you place the bowl of ice on top.
  1. Use caution when dealing with hot liquids and containers. An adult should pour the hot water.
Parenting Chaos

Our Experiences with the Cloud in a Cup:

When we first started playing around we did not get the water temperatures hot enough the first time. We originally attempted to use tap water which resulted in warm water that was not hot enough to form the fog. However the kids did have a lot of fun experimenting with hot (warm) and cold and pouring the hail in to watch it melt. They had a lot of fun shoving their hands into the glass to measure the temperature drop from melting hail. I did bring out thermometers, but they were more into the sensory experiences.

Cloud in a Cup exploring temperatures: Condensation Science Experiment for Preschool

After melting all of our hail it was time to go and get another bucket and try round two. This time around I nuked the glass of water for 1 minute 30 seconds – until it began to boil. It was made very clear to the kids that this glass was hot and we were not to shove our hands into it. The only aerosol can we had in the house was sunblock and my husbands deodorant. The first attempt was the sunblock. While it worked OK it made the water a funky color. The deodorant on the other hand worked AMAZING.

Cloud in a Cup: Condensation Science Experiment for Preschool

While waiting and watching the cloud form both kids kept on wanting to touch. To keep them from touching the glass we explored the hail instead.

Cloud in a Cup exploring temperatures: Condensation Science Experiment for Preschool

It was a great chance to talk about how temperatures interact and get a good grasp on what the two temperatures feel like. My kids know hot and cold, but this was a chance to compare them side by side. Meatball had a lot of fun stirring the hail and watching it melt.

Cloud in a Cup: Condensation Science Experiment for Preschool

He even attempted to put a leave or two into it to see if that would also melt.

Once the glass has fogged up and you can see the cloud it is times to remove the top and let your cloud escape! You can let your kids do this, the steam should not be hot at all.

Cloud in a Cup: Condensation Science Experiment for Preschool

The Science Behind it!

Clouds in the atmosphere form in a similar way to our cloud in a cup. First, clouds need water vapor. This was provided as the hot water evaporated into the jar. Next, clouds need cooling. This was provided by the hail – or ice on top. As the water vapor rises, the air in the atmosphere is cooler. This causes the water vapor to condense. The last thing a cloud needs to form is a surface to condense upon. Small particles called cloud condensation nucluei fill this role. In the atmosphere, these particles could be dust, smoke, air pollution, soot, sea salt, sulfate, and more. In our cloud in a cup, the aerosol spray served as the cloud condensation nuclei.

[Tweet “Explore cloud condensation with this amazing cloud in a cup #preschool #science #experiment! #ShareScience”]

All in all this activity definitely was a win for us and one we will be visiting again!


Looking for kid activity posts similar to this one? Then be sure to click through the below links or head over to our Facebook fan page to continue the discussion!

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Written by Stephanie Oswald

Parenting blogger and early childhood intervention specialist. Mom, wife, coffee addict, nature junkie, book loving, kid at heart!

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