Lava Lamp Experiment: DIY Science Project Ideas for Kids

Lava lamps are very fascinating, the colorful blobs moving up and down in a never-ending dance make it appear almost magical. You can recreate this magic in your kitchen with the Lava Lamp Alka Seltzer experiment using just a few simple ingredients. Additionally, the lava lamp experiment will help your child understand the lessons on density and acid-base reactions. Performing science experiment for kids will help them develop analytical thinking skills for better learning outcomes.

Lava Lamp Experiment

Step-by-Step Instructions on Lava Lamp Experiment for Kids

Performing experiments for kids help them understand their science lessons easily. One such experiment is the lava lamp experiment! So, jazz up a lazy afternoon and wow your kids with this Alka seltzer experiment. 

What You’ll Need?

You don’t need a lot of things to perform the lava lamp experiment at home. All the things you need are inexpensive and easily available at home.

Here is a list of things you’ll need to perform this experiment:

  • Water
  • Vegetable oil
  • Orange food coloring (or any food coloring of your choice)
  • 2 clear glass tumblers or jars 
  • Alka Seltzer tablets, and
  • A small cup

How to Perform Lava Lamp Experiment?

This is an easy experiment. However, it does need adult supervision. Here is a step-by-step guide to performing the experiment.

  • Step 1: Add ½ cup of water to the glass jar or tumbler. Add some orange food coloring to the glass of water and mix with a spoon till you have an orange liquid.
  • Step 2: Break the Alka-Seltzer tablets into two or three pieces and place them in a small cup.
  • Step 3: Fill the second glass tumbler or jar with vegetable oil till the glass is 3/4 full.
  • Step 4: Now, pour the colored water into this container with the oil until the container is almost full. But be sure to leave at least 1-2 inches of space at the top, so that it doesn’t overflow.
  • Step 5: Add the Alka Seltzer tablet to this mixture of colored water and vegetable oil. You’ll notice that orange-colored bubbles float up and down in the jar like a lava lamp!

Note: Don’t overfill the container as it can overflow and get messy. And make sure that your child DOES NOT put the Alka-Seltzer in their mouth at any time.

What You’ll See?

What are those bubbling blobs in the lava lamp experiment?

They are blobs of colored water.

Water and oil do not mix. This is because they both have different densities.  Oil is lighter than water, which is why it floats on top and doesn’t mix. 

The food coloring is water-soluble, so only the water changes color and the oil does not. 

When Alka-Seltzer tablets are added to the vegetable oil and water mixture, the tablets react with the water and forms carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is released in the form of bubbles. The bubbles attach themselves to the blobs of colored water and moves to the top of the glass. When the bubbles pop at the surface, the blob of colored waterfalls to the bottom of the glass. This continues until the Alka-Seltzer is completely used up.

Why doesn’t the oil mix with the water?

Oil and water don’t mix because they have different polarities. Oil is made up of long chains of carbon, which are hydrophobic (afraid of water) and do not carry a charge. So, oil is nonpolar. Water, on the other hand, is made up of highly charged compounds that are hydrophilic (love water), so water is polar. Since oil is nonpolar, the oil molecules are not attracted to water molecules, which is why oil and water don’t mix.

Why does the Alka Seltzer form bubbles when it’s added to the liquid?

Alka Seltzer is made up of sodium bicarbonate (base) and citric acid. So it is both an acid and a base. So, when it is added to water the acid and the base react to form a gas called, carbon dioxide. This gas is released in the form of bubbles.

Why doesn’t the Alka Seltzer lava lamp last long like a real lava lamp?

A real lava lamp uses polar and nonpolar liquids just like our experiment, but it’s powered by light. The density of the liquids are much closer than water and oil. As the denser liquid sinks to the bottom, the heat from the light expands it and makes it rise again. This happens because temperature affects the density of a liquid. As the blobs of the liquid move to the top, they cool down and sink to the bottom, where it gets heated again. So, the colorful blobs move up and down in a continuous dance. The lava lamp lasts as long as it is powered by light.

Unfortunately, the Alka Seltzer-powered lava lamp created in this experiment is temporary. It lasts only as long as the chemical reaction between Alka Seltzer and water lasts, so it doesn’t last as long as a real lava lamp. 

Why Should You Try The Lava Lamp Experiment?

Kids are curious creatures, they learn better when they can explore things on their own. So it is essential to let children experiment with things around them to develop an early interest in science. Does your kid love lava lamps and find them magical? You can create the magic right in front of their eyes with a simple Alka seltzer experiment. The lava lamp experiment is a fun and easy way to understand the chemical reaction between acids and bases. Additionally, it also helps kids understand the density of different substances. 

Download Lava Lamp Experiment Printable

Interactive Session for Kids about the Lava Lamp Experiment

You can make the lava lamp experiment more interesting by conducting a round of question and answer sessions with your child. This session helps your child understand the science behind the lava lamp experiment.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What did you observe from the lava lamp experiment?
  • What do you think happened to the oil and colored water mixture after the Alka-Seltzer tablets were added to them?
  • Did you learn anything new from the lava lamp experiment?
  • What happens when you add more Alka-Seltzer tablets after all the bubbling action stops?

Frequently Asked Questions on Lava Lamp Experiment

How to set up Lava Lamp Experiment?

To set up the lave lamp experiment firstly, you need to add half cup water to a glass tumbler and add some food coloring to the glass. Next, fill the tumbler with vegetable oil and then pour the colored solution with the vegetable oil till the jar is full. Finally, add Alka seltzer tablet to this solution and you can notice the colored bubbles floating.

What are the materials used for Lava Lamp Experiment?

Some of the materials used for the Lava Lamp Experiment are water, a small jar, vegetable oil, Alka seltzer tablets, clear glass jars, and any color of your choice.