DIY Lava Lamp

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A Fun DIY Lava Lamp with a little bit of science using simple household materials. Kids and adults will love doing this experiment.

DIY Lava Lamp Experiment

Doing science experiments at home is such a fun way to learn about the world. Creating our own lava lamp is one of my favorite science experiments, along with our borax crystals, because it is super simple and we get to play with tons of different colors. The best part is watching the cool effect the fizzy tablet has on the water layer and the top of the oil. This experiment looks just like real lava lamps, but without the heat of the lamp. This simple experiment is so much fun and very easy to do. Give it a try with your little ones.

three lava lamps on table - green, purple and pink

What Will I Need to Make My Own Lava Lamp?

Surprisingly, making your own lava lamp at home is super easy and requires only a few ingredients and materials. You might already have everything lying around the house. These are the common household items you will need for the experiment:

  • Food coloring
  • Alka-Seltzer Tablets
  • Canola Oil or vegetable oil
  • Water
  • Mason Jars or Glass for each color

That’s it, seriously! The chemical reaction that happens with the antacid tablets is enough to make the oil float around in the jar or glass. It’s extremely fun to watch. The kids and I are always mesmerized.

Different options that will work for oil are olive oil, baby oil, and avocado oil.

Alternate options for glass are Voss water bottles or a soda bottle because they are clear and won’t break or any clear container you may have on hand.

DIY Lava Lamp Activity


Steps for Creating Your DIY Lava Lamp

This activity is easy to do with older-aged children as well as younger children. Be sure to do it somewhere that won’t make a mess if spills happen. Protect your surface with a rag towel or cloth in case food coloring drops or spills. Always do this simple experiment with adult supervision, just in case.

  1. Fill a glass (we used a tall drinking glass) or jar about 1/2 way to 2/3rds full with your choice of oil.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of water to the glass.
  3. Add roughly 7 – 8 drops of food coloring. We used green, orange, and purple but any color will work.
  4. Add an alka-seltzer tablet to the mixture and watch it do it’s magic!
DIY Lava Lamp Activity

The tab will only fizz for a little while so these lava lamps won’t last forever. It’s easy enough to add another tab to watch the reaction happen over and over though. It might be a good idea to do this experiment in a jar so you can easily add more tabs to watch the bubbles float around in the colored water.

How Does the Lava Lamp Work?

After some fun science research we discovered that An actual lava lamp that you plug into the wall works using polarity and density. Density is how compact a substance is and polarity keeps the oil and water from mixing together. Since water and oil have completely different densities (water is denser than oil and it’s why oil floats on the top of water) they won’t mix, creating a cool effect in your lava lamp.

These lava lamps take a couple of minutes to warm up using the heat source at the bottom of the lamp. The heat is what eventually moves the oil and water around inside the lamp.

DIY Lava Lamp Experiment

Similarly, your DIY lava lamp uses polarity and density to work. The Alka-Seltzer tabs produce carbon dioxide gas bubbles that rise to the surface of the water, making the oil move around. The bubbles pop at the top, the gas escapes the glass, and the dense water sinks back to the bottom of the glass or jar.

While my knowledge of liquid density isn’t that of a professional by any means, hopefully, you get the idea and your kids will enjoy learning a little bit about this cool lava lamp effect. We always love making our own homemade lava lamp because it combines fun and a little bit of science.

Science Fair Project Ideas

DIY Lava Lamp Experiment

This experiment is a great start for a first science fair project. It’s simple enough for kids to do on their own at school and pretty safe!

For more simple science experiment ideas, check out these posts:

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