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20 Minute Labs: Snow Globes

snow globe logo | Yellow Scope



snow globe | Yellow ScopeDid you know that the snow globe was invented by accident?

Around 1900, an Austrian man named Erwin Perzy was trying to build a better light source to use in surgeries, but he ended up with a very different invention instead - a beautiful, handmade snow globe!

Have you ever wanted to make your own snow globe? Well, this month's 20 Minute Lab will show you how, with a little help from the concept of viscosity!

Before we start, you may want to think about what kind of things you want in your snow globe. A winter scene is very common - hence the snow! But you could also make an underwater scene, a zoo scene, or something else - let your imagine run wild! And of course, you can always create more than one!

What You'll Need

  • snow globe supplies | Yellow Scopeempty, clear jar with a screw-top lid
  • small toys and decorations
  • glue (non water-based like super glue or epoxy)
  • glycerin 
  • white or colored glitter
  • chop stick or long spoon
  • water

NOTE: This image shows some different ideas for jars, glitter and toys. Adjust to your taste!

WARNING: If you use epoxy or superglue, make sure to ask an adult for help!

The toys and items you choose should be able to stay in water for a long time without deteriorating (falling apart!). Plastic or ceramic items work great. And be aware that dyes from some toys may color the water. If you're not sure about your items, you could test them out first by leaving them in a bowl of water for a day or so before you make the globe. Avoid metal, as it will rust, and wood, as it may discolor the water.

Let's Get Started!

  1. toys glued for snow globes | Yellow ScopePlace the jar lid top down on a flat table or counter. Make sure to protect your work surface by lining it with paper or a placemat to catch any spilled glue.
  2. Set your toys/decorations in the jar lid in an arrangement that you like. Check to make sure that the jar will fit over the items. (Nothing should stick out beyond the lid borders).
  3. Carefully glue your items to the lid. (Ask an adult for help if you are using epoxy or superglue.)
  4. Set the jar lid aside to dry.
  5. Now, fill the jar one third of the way with glycerin.
  6. Add a small amount of glitter.
  7. Using a chopstick or spoon, mix the glitter into the glycerin. (Observe what happens to the glitter.)
    snow globe mixes | Yellow Scope
  8. Add water to jar, so it is almost to the top. Stir again. Add more glitter if you like.
  9. Now add water to fill the jar completely - all the way to the very top.
  10. Check the lid to make sure the glue has completely dried and your items are stuck solidly in place.
  11. Working over the sink or a tray, turn your decorated lid over and slowly screw it into place onto the jar.
  12. The water will spill a bit over the sides, but that's good, it will help to keep bubbles out of the finished snow globe.
  13. Feel free to add more decorations, like ribbons, to the jar lid.

finished snow globes | Yellow Scope


What's going on?

glycerin | Yellow ScopeWhat makes the glitter (snow) fall slowly through the globe? How things flow has to do with viscosity. Viscosity is a measure of how "thick" a liquid is.

Water has a low viscosity, meaning it is a rather "thin" liquid. In other words, glitter moves around very easily when you stir it in water! But glycerin, as you noticed in the experiment, is thicker; it has a higher viscosity. You likely noticed that, even when vigorously stirred, the glitter barely moved in the glycerin!

Adding water to the glycerin creates a liquid with a medium amount of viscosity. That way the glitter falls slowly, more like snow, rather than staying suspended for hours (as it would if you only used glycerin without any water)!

honey | Yellow ScopeCan you think of other viscous fluids? How about molasses or honey? Those are pretty thick!

Glycerin is a nice choice for snow globes because it is clear. It's also water soluble, meaning it mixes well with water, instead of remaining separate.

Glycerin is also only a little bit more dense than water, again making it so they mix well together. Density refers to how much stuff can be packed into a given space. To learn more about density, check out the 20 Minute Lab: Rainbow in a Jar.


Let us know what you did. Share your photos and results with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or send us an email to We love getting your messages!

For more exciting experiments, check out our Yellow Scope Science Kits on the Shop tab of our website!

Chelsea Schuyler
Chelsea Schuyler