Glow in the Dark Ice Cubes – Sensory, Edible Science Activity

Let’s make glow in the dark ice cubes !

Are you throwing a Halloween Party in your home? If yes, then why not spice up your party with some simple and amazing techniques that can be done at home!?

Everything is better when it glows! Isn’t it!!!?

Yes, absolutely!! Not only a Halloween, any formal cocktail event or birthday party is an ideal set up to show off glowing ice cubes. What are you waiting for? Light up the night with the awesome fluorescent, glowing science fun!

If you loved our glowing water beads activity  and making glowing water activity your kids will be thrilled with this one!

Glowing Ice Cubes Glow Science For Kids

I planned to try this glowing ice cubes setting much before my younger one’s (5 years old) birthday party. As a parent I am very much happy seeing the kids happy and excited. But before arranging this setting in the party, I already had a try along with my little ones to check and explain the science behind it.

So let us see what happens with the activity and learn some fun science at home using some magical ingredients that are available at home.

Glowing Ice Cube Experiment for kids

Glowing ice cubes are easy to make and safe to do this activity for kids. It is also safe to consume as well since it is non-toxic and edible. My girls liked the taste of tonic water (and of course, your kids may feel different about it). Though the taste discourages them, it is a great sensory play material for kids as it is safe in case if the kids decide to taste the tonic water.

Hence, this particular activity has become one of my and my daughter’s favorite activities. This is simple enough for kids to do, but also super cool enough to entertain everyone.

Who is it for
Since this is a sensory play and edible activity, this is highly suitable for toddlers.  In addition, preschoolers will also love to play with ice cubes. They will even be excited to see the glowing ice cubes under UV light.

Don’t stress yourself if kids don’t understand the chemistry behind this activity. This could very well work as a sensory play for the kids of all ages. Kids aged more than 5 years would be able to understand the concept easily.

Things required to perform the experiment

Have you ever surprised that you could make something that glows at home and how glow-in-the-dark things work? It’s not that difficult or hard to do—all you need is a magical ingredient as I told you in the beginning. Yes, i.e. nothing but tonic water. How will the tonic water works to glow the cubes? Try this activity to know the answers for the questions rotating in your mind.

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Thinks we need go science girls

Steps to make glow in the dark ice cubes


We wanted to compare the glow of normal water and the tonic water. So we prepared ice cubers in two different trays.

Take some normal water in a beaker and ask your kid to fill in the ice tray. Place the filled ice tray in the freezer until the water could turn into cubes.

Repeat the same step for tonic water as well.

Pour water in ice tray

Tonic water ice cubes turned out to have a textured structure while normal water ice cubes were more transparent.

Normal water vs tonic water


Since we wanted to do more than just tonic water, we added food color to both tonic water and normal water. I let my elder daughter add color to the water and pour in the ice tray and freeze.

Mix and pour yellow colour water in to the tray


To create another variation, I choose a fluorescent paint. (Caution : I used acrylic paint since I couldn’t get fluorescent food color. Acrylic paints are not edible. At any cost, children should not be let to taste the ice cubes mixed with acrylic paints) I suggest you to go for food color to make the activity completely edible. I asked my kid again to fill this mixture into the ice tray and freeze.

Add fluorescent colour to water and pour to ice tray
We marked the tray at the back using a marker just to distinguish which ones were made from tonic water.

Once all the liquids are frozen, take out all the ice cubes made of different mixtures using normal water into separate bowls as shown in the figure.


This step is little boring for you I guess!!! 🙂 But not for our kids hopefully. They are always excited and active to do mixing of different substances. This also helps their little brain to understand the concept of measuring the substances in right quantities and mixing the substances in a right way. It would be like a practice session on mixing different mixtures.

Coming to our step-4; repeat the above three steps but this time we need to make cubes using our magical ingredient i.e. nothing but ‘tonic water’.

Ice cubes go science girls

Hope you all understand the preparation steps before we get into the activity. My girls are ready with cubes made of tonic water and normal water mixed with food color and fluorescent fabric color. You can follow the figures (how my girls have arranged the ice cube containing bowls to perform the experiment) we have uploaded along with this post.


All you need to do in step-5 is so simple and effortless. Just turn off the lights and flash some black light onto the ice cubes. Now turn on the black light. The ice cubes will start glowing.

Tonic water and normal water
Glowing tonic water

Mamma! Tonight we are going to have a parrrrtyyyyy… Yeyyy!!! How could mamma make such an amazing thing even at home!?? You can expect who said these words. Yes, my girls were very excited seeing the glowing cubes. They are also excited to know the reason behind it. Without any delay or before their mood switches, I started explaining them the simple science and secret behind this activity.

Here are our results

As expected, the glow on the tonic water was much brighter than the normal ice cubes.  In fact, we could clearly see the texture of the tonic water ice cubes when they were glowing.

Smiling ice cubes Go science girls
On the contrary to our expectation, among the fluorescent paint mixed ice cubes, the normal water ones were brighter. I believe the tonic water didn’t mix well with the acrylic paint as we could see patches of the paint across the ice cubes. That might be a reason.

Glowing ice cubes Go science girls

The food colored ice cubes were so dull. We actually decided not to use any food color to make ice cubes for the birthday party.

I allowed my daughter to play and taste the ice cubes (of-course – except the fluorescent paint mixed ones). They even explored it further testing the ice cubes with normal flashlight.

Glowing Tonic Water Ice Cubes

Science behind the Glowing Ice Cubes Activity

Our magical ingredient ‘tonic water’ contains a highly fluorescent compound nothing but ‘Quinine’. Even a small quantity of quinine in the tonic water makes the things glow in the dark. But you will need a black light because this is how you can make things glow by screwing black light.

What happens here is; the fluorescent compound quinine absorbs the ultraviolet (UV) light (nothing but black light), which is generally invisible to the human eye, and then emits it back at a visible wavelength. So basically, the invisible light goes into the ice cube, and comes back out as visible light. Cool!

Currently I have used LED UV torch as my black light, but there are lots of different ones available in the market that suit your budget, so have a look around and get it. I really like the idea of the torch ones too…)

This is one of the fun and cool science activities which is perfect to introduce for younger kids around 5 years. You will also get the chance to introduce some new words (like liquid, fluoresce, ultraviolet etc.) to your kid’s vocabulary in a fun and playful way.

Some Q&A to kindle interest in the subject

What makes tonic water glow in the dark?

The answer is amazingly so simple: Tonic water actually contains the chemical fluorescent compound quinine, which fluoresces under certain ultraviolet or black light and that makes tonic water glow.

Does tonic water glow in the dark without a black light?

Yes, tonic water can glow without black light but only when exposed to a blue or purple LED (light emitting diode) light.

Does frozen tonic water glow in the dark?

No – Frozen tonic water glows only when exposed to UV light.

Does diet tonic water glow?

Yes, perfectly glows!! It doesn’t make any difference whether you use regular or diet tonic water, just make sure the label on the tonic water bottle lists quinine.

What is tonic water good for?

Tonic water is nothing but a soft drink containing chemical quinine (which gives a bitter taste to the tonic water). Some people believe that quinine is a common treatment for malaria and also helps with restless legs syndrome and leg cramps. However, there is no scientific evidence verifying this belief.

What is the best tonic water?

Fentimans, Fever Tree, and Schweppes are now making the entire line of tonic waters.

Check our Glowing Science page for more glowing fun!  You will definitely like our glowing slime and glowing water beads experiments.

Have you tried these activities at home? Let us know your results in the comments.

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Shinning ice cubes go science girls

Caution Note ...
We used a low powered UV light (black light torch) to do this activity.  UA A-light (low powered UV light) is not harmful and can be viewed without any protection.  They generally do not cause any harm. However, I would suggest do not expose this light directly to eyes. So watch over your kids when they play with the black light torch (if you have one).

In addition, as described in the article, do not use acrylic fluorescent paint when you try this activity at your home. acrylic paints are not edible. You can get fluorescent food colors which can be used to make glowing ice cubes that are edible too.

Finally, all the activities in this blog require adult supervision. Do not let your kids do these activities alone. Being around them encourages them to explore more while avoiding unnecessary accidents. Read here for more information.

Glowing-Ice Cube Experiment For Kids

Glowing Ice Cubes Science Experiment

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