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It's Science: The Magic Milk Experiment

What parent doesn’t like super simple, super easy, and super fun science experiments that they can share with their children of all ages?!

This magic milk experiment is a great chemical reaction that makes for a great hands-on learning experience that you can share with your child.

I love that this experiment can be thrown together really quickly, there’s very minimal cleanup, and it’s perfect for a rainy day or as a calm down activity.

The best part? You probably have all of these ingredients in your kitchen pantry!

  • Milk (the more fat the better!)

  • Liquid food colouring

  • Liquid dish soap

  • Cotton swabs

  • A shallow dish/bowl

Now let’s set this up:

Step 1. Once you have all of your ingredients ready, start by pouring the milk into your shallow dish. Some sort of flat bottom surface baking dish works amazingly! It allows for a lot of space to see the experiment happening, and you won’t need to use up as much milk (so you can save more to do this again and again!)

Step 2. This is when you want to start adding your colour to the milk! Start putting drops of colour anywhere you want. You can make a cute pattern, or let your kids go wild and do every colour everywhere. (You could even add some glitter here to add some extra magic!)

Step 3. Once you’re happy with your colours, we move on to the soap. Put a little soap in a small bowl. Touch the tip of the cotton swab and coat it in the soap. Now this is when the magic happens… Bring it over to the milk dish and gently touch the surface of the milk. What do you see?!

* Important! Do NOT stir the milk – if you mix it up, the magic stops working*

Watch the colours beautifully swirl and dance around the milk! It’s like liquid tie-dye I love staring at so much! You can even choose your colours to go with a special occasion, like St. Patrick’s Day, Canada Day, Fourth of July… the possibilities are endless! Plus, adding glitter would make it look like beautiful fireworks!


So what is the science behind it?

This simple explanation is great for the little ones to understand: it’s the soap reacting to the fat in the milk. As the soap molecules “chase” the fats and try to attach to it, it pushes the colours around with it, creating the awesome burst of colour. You wouldn’t see the reaction without the food colouring, so don’t forget that part!

Once all the movement stops, it means all the fat molecules have been found by the soap. Are there anymore still hiding in there somewhere? Have your child take another swab and dip it again to make sure.

Here is an example experiment that my children and I did, doing this exact method with two different fat contents: 2% milk and table cream (which is a whopping 18% fat).

Right away, you can see how the food colouring reacts to them differently. It seems that it spreads on the milk easier, where it more so sits where it is placed on the cream.

This is taken within 3 seconds of adding the food colouring into the center of each one (my daughter helped me so the soap was added at the same time.)

After about a minute, the motion had stopped in the milk, but was going strong in the cream!

To be honest, I stopped counting how long it had been after about 4 minutes... but the molecules in the cream were STILL ACTIVE. The photos don't even do it justice just how much colour there was, dancing about!

By the end, both substances had very different, but very neat designs. My 6-year old said the blue and red in the 2% milk looked like flame and ice. Personally, I'm getting some paisley vibes from the cream dish.

Every single time you do this, it will look different! It’s such a beautiful way for your little ones to experience science at home. Science is SO important to show your children, because it’s a way for them to explore, discover, and learn about the world around them in a new way. So much cause and effect exploration, questioning, problem solving, and reaching conclusions happens even at simple science experiments.


You could even go further and try this experiment with multiple types of milk with different fat contents to see if it changes the bursting colour effect. What happens when you use whole milk compared to 2%? How about coconut milk? Soy? Rice or almond? Table or whipping cream even? There’s a whole new Magic Milk experiment with the same fun! Plus, what happens if you put a dot of soap in the middle, versus on the side of the dish?

Make sure you share with me your experiences with Magic Milk!

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