Beat the heat and stay inside for this fun, colorful experiment about density. Density is a measure of how much matter is in a certain volume. Mass is how many atoms are in an object, and volume is how much space an object takes up.



  • Sugar
  • Warm water
  • Five clear plastic cups
  • Food coloring



  1. Line up the five cups and add one tablespoon of sugar to Cup 1, two tablespoons of sugar to Cup 2, three tablespoons of sugar to Cup 3, and four tablespoons of sugar to Cup 4. Leave Cup 5 empty.


  1. Add three tablespoons of water to each of Cups 1 through 4 and stir each solution. (Leave Cup 5 empty.) If the sugar does not dissolve, add one more tablespoon of water to the solution.


  1. Add two to three drops of redfood coloring to Cup 1, yellow food coloring to Cup 2, green food coloring to Cup 3 and bluefood coloring to Cup 4. Then stir each solution.


  1. To make the density column, pour the Cup 4 (blue) solution into Cup 5. Then carefully layer some Cup 3 (green) solution over the blue liquid. You can do this by putting a spoon over the cup, just above the blue layer, and pouring the green solution slowly over the back of the spoon. Next, pour the Cup 2 (yellow) solution over the green layer. Finally, pour the Cup 1 (red) solution over the yellow layer.


How Does It Work?

As you add sugar to the water, more and more sugar molecules take over the space, making the water denser. The blue layer is the densest, so it is on the bottom. The red layer is the least dense, so it floats on the top.


Play around with it! What happens if you pour the least dense solution on the bottom? What happens if you shake up your sugar density column?


This is an example of some of the experiments happening in the Kitchen Lab this summer at the Thinkery. Learn more at


Visit the Thinkery’s blog at for more fun and easy activities you can do at home.


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