How to Make a Lava Lamp
Homemade science experiments for kids are a huge hit in our house, as you could probably already tell after our chemistry for kids lesson plan! In fact, Hannah (my oldest daughter) just started her own YouTube channel to teach kids how to do science experiments, cook yummy things and make awesome arts and crafts projects! Her channel is called Inspired Sparks, and you DEFINITELY want to follow her here, so that you don’t miss any of her amazing videos for kids! Two of today’s DIY lava lamps (without Alka Seltzer) demonstrations are actually on her channel as well! Trust me, your kids need to learn how to make a lava lamp and the science behind why it works. It is SO cool!
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DIY Lava Lamp Experiment
Kids LOVE learning how to make lava lamps, because it is completely mesmerizing to watch the liquid bubble up and down. In fact, as long as the bubbles keep going, my kids will happily sit there and watch it without batting an eye! The classic way to make a homemade lava lamp is to use Alka Seltzer. If you are going to buy some, I would highly recommend buying the generic brand Alka Seltzer, because it is more cost effective and works just as well!
1. How to make a lava lamp without Alka Seltzer
I could have sworn that we had Alka Seltzer in our science experiment supply cabinet, because it is used in tons of homemade science experiments. However, all we could find was an empty box. Perfect lesson to teach kids to throw out empty boxes, because otherwise they don’t get replaced! Luckily, there are two different ways to make lava lamps without Alka Seltzer, so the experiment could go on!
Materials (without Alka Seltzer)
Here is a list of everything you will need to make a homemade lava lamp without Alka Seltzer.
How to make liquid food coloring with gel food coloring
If you only have gel food coloring at home, do not worry! Gel food coloring is simply more concentrated and a thicker consistency. Just add a tiny bit of your gel food coloring to a few drops of water, and you will get the right consistency to use in place of liquid food coloring!
Directions (without Alka Seltzer)
The absolute BEST way to learn how to make this type of homemade lava lamp is to watch my daughter’s video below. It would mean the absolute world to her if you liked her video here, and follow her Inspired Sparks YouTube channel here!
How does this DIY lava lamp work?
As Hannah explained in the video above, vinegar and baking soda are both more dense than oil, and oil does not mix well with either substance. So when you add oil on top of the baking soda, the oil stays on the top. When you add drops of colored vinegar, it sinks to the bottom (since vinegar is more dense and won’t mix with oil). As soon as the vinegar touches the bottom though, it mixes with the baking soda, which creates a chemical reaction that produces carbon dioxide gas! The gas then creates a bubble that floats to the top, until it reaches the surface and pops!
2. How to make a salt lava lamp
As seen in the Inspired Spark’s video above, you can also make a lava lamp out of water, vegetable oil, liquid food coloring and table salt. Simply dye your water and place it in a clear jar. Add a thin layer of oil to the top of the water, and pour in your salt. As you pour in clumps of salt, you will begin to see a lava lamp effect.
Salt Lava Lamp Pros & Cons
The only disadvantage of this technique is that it is less dramatic. However, when you think about “the original” lava lamps, they had a very slow motion. So in some ways, the salt lava lamp is more authentic! Another plus of making this homemade lava lamp is that you do not need to use a lot of oil (like you do in the other experiments). In our experience though, this is the least “exciting” of the five DIY lava lamps for kids.
3. DIY Lava Lamp (with Alka Seltzer)
Let’s first explain the basic experiment of how to make a DIY lava lamp using Alka Seltzer.
Materials (with Alka Seltzer)
All you need are the following materials to make your basic DIY lava lamp with Alka Seltzer.
Directions (with Alka Seltzer)
- Add water to your jar until it is around 1/4 full.
- Pour vegetable oil or baby oil to your jar until it is about an inch or two away from the top.
- Add a couple of drops of liquid food coloring and watch it go through the layer of oil and start to mix with the water below.
- Once the water becomes a pretty color, add in a quarter of an Alka Seltzer tablet. If you have the powdered variety of Alka Seltzer, just use one teaspoon.
- Shortly, your project will come to life!
- After the action slows down or stops, you can keep it going by adding more Alka Seltzer!
- You can even place a lid on the oil and colored water so that you can do this experiment over and over again. However, if you do this, make sure NOT to put the lid on until the chemical reaction has finished completely. Otherwise, you could build-up pressure in the jar and cause an explosion (with a huge mess!)
How to make Alka Seltzer
Did you know that you can actually make your own powdered version of Alka Seltzer for this type of homemade science experiment? You simply mix together two parts baking soda to one part citric acid. For example, you could mix together two teaspoons of baking soda with one teaspoon of citric acid.
4. DIY glow in the dark lava lamp
Want to REALLY impress your kids? Instead of using liquid food coloring in your DIY lava lamp, use photoluminescent pigment! Not only will this create gorgeous colors, but when you turn the lights out, your lamp will glow in the dark!
5. DIY glitter lava lamp
Everything is better with glitter! Add your glitter right before adding whatever ingredient creates a chemical reaction. In the homemade lava lamp with Alka Seltzer, for example, you should add your glitter right before (or even at the same time as) you add your Alka Seltzer.
Which homemade lava lamp will you make?
Don’t forget to join our Facebook Group and follow us on Pinterest, so you that you won’t miss any of our homemade science experiments! Also, let us know which one you make and how it turns out by dropping a comment below. We would LOVE to see photos and videos of your lava lamps too! Please post your photos and videos in our Facebook Group to inspire others!