STREAM Activity: Lava Lamp

Let's kick off Chemistry Month with a groovy lava lamp!

Activity best for children age 2 and up

For chemistry month, we’re making… lava lamps! Not only are they cool to look at, they’re also really fun to make. The chemicals inside these lava lamps are oil, water, and sodium bicarbonate. When put together, they make a chemical reaction! See if you can notice what happens between the oil and water before it becomes a fizzy lamp. The oil floats on top of the water because it’s less dense than the water and food coloring. When you add the alka seltzer, it floats to the top because it becomes a gas that’s lighter than the oil. What is your lava lamp going to look like?

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Materials you’ll need:

Plastic or glass bottle


Food coloring

Cooking oil or baby oil

Fizzing tablets or Alka seltzer

Guiding Questions:

What chemical reactions do you notice about the oil, water, and gas?

Can you see which chemicals have different densities?


Step 1

Fill your bottle about 1/3 full of water and a couple of drops of food coloring.

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Step 2

Fill the rest of the bottle up with oil. Do the water and oil mix? Which liquid is on top?

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Step 3

Break the fizzy tablet in half and drop it in the bottle.

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Step 4

Watch the bubbles and blobs! You can also turn off the lights and get a flashlight to watch as you put in the other half of the fizzy tablet!

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Grown Ups-Are you looking for more ways to extend your child’s learning? Check out these extension activities to build upon today’s STREAM activity!

Real-World Connections:

We are creating a chemistry experiment that also acts as a sensory bottle. Sensory bottles can be made with many different materials (such as glitter). They can create a calming effect that aids in mindfulness for children.

Math Connections:

The lava lamp is 1/3 water and 2/3 oil. You can use this activity to talk about how fractions make up a whole!