On this page...
Have you ever looked up and watched the clouds go by? Sometimes you can see some funny images in them. Maybe you and your sibling or a parent could come outside and look up at the clouds and see if you can guess each other's pictures that you see.
There are many different kinds of clouds. Their names are based on their shape or texture and how high above the ground the cloud is. An example of a cloud you might see lower to the ground, or at low altitude is cumulus, which are these fluffy cotton ball shaped clouds. As you move further into the sky you might find clouds with alto in their name which means mid. Alto cumulus is an example which most commonly exists in the shape of rounded clumps, often in many small rows of fluffy ripples. As we go higher again we enter high altitude and these clouds often have cirro in their name which means high or a curl of hair. An example of this is cirrus which are these delicate and wispy clouds.
But have you ever wondered what makes up a cloud? Clouds are made up of ice crystals or water droplets or sometimes both. But how do they work? Let's head to the kitchen to find out!
So we're going to need a glass or a jar, some water, some food dye, and some shaving cream. Now if you've got some food dye in jars like this and not the droppers you may like to just mix up a couple of drops of dye and a bit of water just to make it easier for you to drop. You will need a syringe or a pipette to help draw it up and that way it'll be nice and easy to to do the drops rather than pouring too much on.
So the first step will be to pour about three quarters of your jar full with water. Next you'll need to give your shaving cream a good shake, and then we're going to spray a pretty good layer over your glass or jar. Whoa - this can can get a bit messy. Okay. Next you're going to choose what colors you want to use. Now you can use one colour of coloring dye, you can use two, you can use four - it's up to you.
I'm going to use blue - just draw some of that up - and we're just going to simply pop it onto the shaving cream. Now you might like to put a couple of drops at the back, a couple at the front, and maybe some in the middle there. Okay, and then i'm also going to use some red...
Okay, and now what's going to happen is we're going to use our patient skills and we're going to need to wait maybe five or ten minutes. I wonder what you think might happen? Have a guess.
So what we have here is the shaving cream represents our cloud and the colored dye represents the water droplets. We know clouds are made up of water droplets but as the cloud gets more and more saturated with water droplets the clouds become heavy and gravity pulls down the water. So what happens is that we can see those water particles now coming down into the glass. The water is the air and the coloured dye is the rain. So we've made our very own rain cloud. Now you can experiment some more with different colors and see which one falls faster, or how long it takes for your dye to get through that shaving cream layer. You may want to experiment with less shaving cream or more shaving cream. The possibilities are up to you.
Thanks for watching and the adventure doesn't have to stop here. You can keep learning with many games, activities and quizzes on our Australian Museum website. Have fun!
Duration: 5 mins
Ages: 5-12 years
What do you see in the sky? Discover how clouds are formed with a fun at home experiment using shaving cream and food dye.
Shopping list for this activity:
- Parent supervision/permission
- Shaving cream
- Food colouring (your choice of colours)
- A glass/jar
- Pipette or syringe (Note: this is optional – if you have steady hands, you can carefully pour out a few drops. If you accidentally drop in too much, don’t worry! It will just make your clouds heavier).