Make your own lava lamp

Sometimes we move away from nature-specific principles and teach more general science principles during Dickinson County Nature Center programs. We use science experiments in many of our programs to teach about natural reactions and to help kids learn to hypothesize and test out their theories.

(Learn about permeable skin through an experiment in this video)

A really fun and simple experiment to do at home is to create your own lava lamp. These lamps are actually made of a liquid and a wax mixture, and when the light heats the wax, it begins to melt and float around through the liquid.

lava lamp project

The at-home version is different, and temporary, but it’s a lot of fun to create!

You’ll need:
A plastic water bottle with about 1/4 of the water left or re-filled
Vegetable oil
Alka-Seltzer tablets
Food coloring

Use a measuring cup or funnel to slowly pour vegetable oil into the bottle until it’s almost full. Wait for the oil and water to completely separate.

Add 10 drops of food coloring, and wait as the drops pass through the oil into the water.

alka seltzer being dropped into a homemade lava lamp

Break a seltzer tab in half and drop it into the bottle. Watch it sink and the colored bubbles rise from the water into the oil.

kid looking at a homemade lava lamp

When it stops bubbling, add more seltzer to continue the reaction.

child holding a homemade lava lamp