Lava Lamp How-To

Lava Lamp How-To

If you were a child of the 60s or 90s, you probably remember those awesome glass jars filled with floating blobs of waxy color, seeming to bounce and float through liquid. Yes, I’m talking about the Lava Lamp! This week, I was looking for a neat idea to beat the heat and came up with a Lava Lamp How-To!

Since I try to incorporate a lesson into our “projects”, I did a little background research on the lava lamp. Here are a few interesting tidbits I found:

  • It was originally invented by Edward Craven Walker in 1963
  • The first working lava lamp was made in a soda bottle from a water based liquid and colored wax, with a lamp under the bottle
  • As the heat source liquefies the wax, it begins to float and bubble up towards the surface, but then cools and sinks back down as it gets heavier
  • Though called a lamp, they were not meant to provide light, but a soothing mood setter
  • After going out of fashion in the 1970s, they became popular again in the 1990s due to the Austin Powers movies

So as usual, we tried to create our own lava lamp using as many items we already had around the house. As we gathered our supplies, I explained how the lamp would work since my son is 5 and has only seen them briefly on our travels.

I explained that the colored water has a heavier density or is “heavier” than the oil, which is why it stays on the top, no matter which way the bottle may be turned. This explanation could go deeper of course, but for kindergarten, this was fine.

Lava Lamp How-To

Here is the Lava Lamp How-To:


  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Vegetable oil
  • Water bottle
  • Effervescent tablets (like Alka-Seltzer)


  1. Fill the bottle about a third to a half of the way with water. Measurements don’t have to be exact!
  2. Add as much or as little food coloring as you’d like (Note: my little helper did this step, so we did ours over the sink)
  3. Fill the bottle with oil, leaving about an inch of room from the top.
  4. Break the effervescent tablet into a few pieces and drop 1 into the bottle.
  5. As the tablet reacts with the water, it will begin to bubble and fuzz up, sending the colored water droplets into the oil.
  6. Once used up, the colored water will sink back through the oil and return to the bottom of the bottle.

You can repeat the fuzzy tablets over and over again. I think we went through a box of these tablets with a single bottle LOL!

This was a great project for the kids to start learning about why not all liquids mix together, as well as being able to help with set up and participate in the experiment! I enjoyed talking about what my son expected to happen, right or wrong, and then talking about the results and why they were that way.

This is a terrific idea to keep busy when it’s too hot or wet to play outside, especially with summer coming! With just a few ingredients from around the house, the kids can learn the history of the lava lamp, learn about setting up experiments and talking about expected outcomes, and analyze the process they get to see right in front of them! PLUS, they get a really cool lava lamp to play with!!

If you’re looking for other great ideas for when it’s too wet (or hot) to play outside, check out these other projects and ideas!

Be sure to check out tomorrow’s post by going to Peakle Pie’s website for Rainy Day Musical Games!

Lava Lamp How-To

A to Z Rainy Day Activities List


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Emma @ P is for Preschooler
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 11:26:13

    Very cool! This makes a perfect rainy day activity – a little bit of science with a big “wow” factor!


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