Do you love to watch the waves roll in on a breezy ocean day? Or have you witnessed the power of waves during a storm? Have you ever wondered what causes ocean waves? Create an ocean wave bottle as a fun way to demonstrate a little bit about how waves work. Combine learning about the ocean with a visually appealing sensory bottle for fun and playful learning for kids.


Get ready to explore ocean waves for your next ocean science activity this season with a homemade ocean waves in a bottle. If you want to learn more about what causes oceans waves, let’s get started. Just a few simple materials and you can make an ocean in a bottle. While you’re at it, make sure to check out our other fun ocean activities!

How To Make An Ocean Wave Bottle

Let’s explore ocean waves! Even if you can’t get outside to see the real thing or you don’t live near an ocean, you can make your own ocean waves in a bottle.


  • Mason jar or plastic water bottle
  • Vegetable oil or baby oil
  • Water
  • Blue food coloring
  • Funnel (optional)


STEP 1: Fill your container 1/2 way with water and add as much blue food coloring as desired.

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STEP 2: Fill the rest of the container up with baby oil or vegetable oil. Try and fill the container as full as possible, reducing the amount of airspace that will be left after you screw on the lid or cap.

fill the rest of the jar with oilPin

STEP 3: Secure the cap tightly!

STEP 4: To make a wave tilt and gently shake your ocean in a bottle! Watch the wave action in your sea.

turn your bottle on the side and gently tilt from side to sidePin
ocean in a jarPin

Classroom Tips

TIP 1. This ocean waves in a bottle activity is perfect to pair with our beach erosion demonstration or our ocean currents model!

TIP 2. If you are making this with a group of kids, Gatorade or VOSS style water bottles will also work. You can hot glue the caps on to prevent spills. It’s still best not to drop the bottles on the ground!

TIP 3. Try to avoid shaking roughly as this will distort the surface between the oil and water with little bubbles of partially incorporated oil & water. Over time, the oil and water will separate again due to their different densities. Water is heavier than oil because it’s made up of a different amount of molecules. Learn more about the science of oil and water.

What Causes Waves In The Ocean?

Obviously, waves are not caused by oil floating on water. However this ocean wave activity is a good picture of the movement of ocean waves.

Ocean waves are created by energy moving through the ocean water. Most of the time, the energy comes from wind blowing and disturbing the surface of the water. Other things cause ocean waves too such as the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon. This causes tidal waves or tides!

When you move the bottle, you’re seeing energy move through the water to make waves, just like out in the ocean! Did you know if a wave doesn’t have anything to stop it, it can travel far distances?

FREE Printable Ocean Activities Guide!


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    More Fun Ocean Activities

    Printable Ocean STEM Project Pack

    Perfect for kids in Kindergarten through Upper Elementary School! Grab this Ocean printable project pack and read the reviews!

    • 10+ Ocean theme science activities with journal pages, supply lists, set up and process, and science information. Easy to set up, fun, and fit into your available time, even if it’s limited!
    • 10+ Printable Ocean STEM challenges that are simple but engaging for home or classroom. 
    • Engaging Ocean theme activities include a tide pool pack, oil spill pack, marine food chain pack, and more!
    • Ocean Theme STEM Story and challenges perfect for going on a STEM adventure in the classroom!
    • Learn about Jacques Cousteau with a workbook activity
    • Explore the ocean layers and create an ocean layer jar!
    • Ocean Extras include I-Spy pages, bingo games, coloring sheets, and more for early finishers!
    • BONUS: Ocean Science Camp Week Pullout (note some duplicate activities but organized for convenience)
    • BONUS: Ocean STEM Challenge Calendar Pullout  (note some duplicate activities but organized for convenience)

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