If you haven’t tried doing a lava lamp experiment with your students yet, make this your year! It’s such a fun and simple addition to no-prep STEM activities. I’ve also designed a printable lava lamp experiment worksheet that you can use along with this experiment to scale the activity for any grade level between preschool and middle school. Because no matter the age of the children I’ve done this experiment with- the 15 year olds love watching this chemical reaction in action as much as preschoolers do!
All you have to do to set-up this lava lamp experiment is to download the lava lamp experiment worksheet that goes along with this lesson and get started! You probably already have everything you need to complete this experiment in your classroom or kitchen at home.
How to Make a Lava Lamp
Here’s how to set up your own lava lamp STEM project.
When I’m introducing science experiments and STEM activities for kids, I like to choose activities that are simple and easy to set up, but that also have a bit of a “wow” factor. In all my years working with kids from toddlers through middle school, these sorts of simple, hands-on experiments spark an interest in science like nothing else.
That’s why we always try to make things easy, low-cost, and usually simple enough for kids to do mostly on their own- because experience is the best teacher!
The lava lamp experiment is no different.
I’ve created a free worksheet that you can use to expand on the science and STEM elements of this activity with leveled questions from preschool through middle school. Grab the lava lamp experiment worksheet below and simply select the STEM extensions that are relevant to the age group you are currently teaching.
How Does the Lava Lamp Science Experiment Work?
When you make a DIY lava lamp, kids can learn a lot!
A lava lamp made with Alka-Seltzer tablets is a lesson in chemical reactions. Alka-Seltzer contains citric acid and baking soda, which react together when added to water.
This reaction creates carbon dioxide gas, which travels to the surface of the oil. The colored water gets carried up with the gas, making the jar bubble with colored lava lamp bubbles!
Lava Lamp Experiment Questions
Here are some questions that you can discuss when completing the lava lamp experiment with any age group. And don’t forget to download the lava lamp experiment worksheet for even more STEM extension ideas!
Science: Learn about endothermic reactions, acids and basics, and carbon dioxide.
Technology: What is an Alka-Seltzer tablet made of?
Engineering: Does changing the size of the container or amount of water or oil change the reaction?
Art: Lay a piece of paper across the top of the jar and see if you can capture the colored bubbles as they rise to the surface.
Math: How long does the reaction take from start to finish? How many bubbles does each tablet make?
What Do You Need to Make a Lava Lamp?
You don’t need a lot to make a homemade lava lamp, which is why it is one of my favorite quick STEM activities for kids in all grades. But in case you don’t already have what you need for the homemade lava lamp in your classroom or kitchen- these are the supplies you need before getting started for each group of students.
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- Alka-Seltzer tablets
- Clear plastic jars
- Liquid food coloring
- Baby oil
How Do You Make a Lava Lamp?
Decide how many colors you want to make. We did a green, a pink, and a purple, but Easter colors also include light orange and light blue, and yellow.
You could divide your class up into groups of 3-4 and give each one a jar to experiment with.
Fill the jar 1/4 of the way with water. Add a few drops of food coloring.
Fill the jars 2/4 of the way full of oil. Don’t fill it all the way up with oil or when you add the tablets, the jars will overflow.
Break the Alka-Seltzer tablets into 4-6 pieces.
Drop one piece into the jar and watch the carbon dioxide gas carry the colored water to the top of the jar.
The more tablets you add, the stronger the bubbling reaction is. If you add too many tablet pieces, the jar can bubble up and overflow, and the lava lamp bubbles will break apart.
Adding less Alka-Seltzer tablet pieces will produce a truer “lava lamp” experience.