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Science Experiments For Kids: Homemade Lava Lamp

homemade lava lamp

Are you tired of your kids’ brains turning to mush in front of the TV or computer? Finding easy science experiments for kids can be challenging, but with this groovy science experiment: Homemade Lava Lamp, they’ll learn something, have a blast, and end up with a colorful souvenir. 

While lava lamps may have gone out of home decor style, they continue to fascinate and delight us. Your kids can make their own custom homemade lava lamp and learn some basic scientific concepts along the way with this easy-to-do experiment. With things you probably already have lying around your house, this is a no-brainer and is definitely a winner among the easy science experiments for kids. 

Best of all, this homemade lava lamp experiment will give your kids a fun pop of color to add to their room. Each of your little ones will be excited to watch the color of their choice ebbing and morphing within their custom, homemade lava lamp. 

First, let’s take a look at what you need and how to put it all together. Then, you’ll get a run-down of the science behind the homemade lava lamp experiment. 

The Setup 

First, you need to gather your materials:

homemade lava lamp

Seriously! That’s all you need!

Once you have all your materials and have prepped your surface – you’ll be working with oil, so you might want to lay down some old newspaper – start the experiment by filling your plastic bottle about ¾ full with vegetable oil. Follow that up by adding water up to the neck of the bottle. Be sure to leave some space between the top of your water line and the top of the bottle. 

Next, pick your colors. This is the fun part – any color your kids want will work for this experiment. Add 10 or more drops of the food coloring into your oil and water mixture. This will ensure that you have a brilliant, rich color for your lava lamps. 

After you have the color added, break your alka-seltzer tablet into about six to eight pieces. Carefully add one piece of the tablet at a time to your bottle. This is the exciting science part – watch as the alka-seltzer creates bubbles and see how your lava lamp starts to form. Once the bubbles stop, place the cap on your bottle. 

Now, get shaking! Tip the bottle back and forth and shake it from side to side. Twist and shout. Shake it up baby. Get yourself moving! As you do this, the mixture will start to create the characteristic lava-lamp effect. 

Finally, set up your homemade lava lamp in a place they will be enjoyed! Consider putting them in front of a window for a gorgeous light show or on a desk for a pop of color. That’s all it takes to enjoy one of our favorite easy science experiments for kids. 

The Science Behind The Homemade Lava Lamp

While this is a simple experiment, there are some serious scientific principles happening. 

Oil & Water Mixture

Oil is a hydrophobic compound made of long chains of carbon. Water is a hydrophilic compound that is highly charged. Because the charges in both oil and water aren’t attracted to each other, you’ll notice the two liquids don’t mix. This is because they can’t form a chemical bond with each other and this principle of chemistry is a critical part of understanding how compounds are formed. 

Because the two substances don’t mix, it will actually lead to separation, like you see when you shake up your homemade lava lamp. While the two appear at first to combine, they quickly separate again. This is the same principle we see when cleaning a greasy kitchen sink or when there’s an oceanic oil spill. 

Acid-Base Reaction

Aside from the two compounds not separating, this experiment also demonstrates an acid-base reaction. This acid-base reaction happens when an acid reacts with a base.

In making the lava lamps, you use an Alka-seltzer tablet. Alka-seltzer tablets are actually both acidic and basic. They have bicarbonate – a base – and citric acid – an acid. When these are mixed together in a liquid, they react and produce bubbling carbon dioxide. That’s where the bubbles in your homemade lava lamp come from. 

Takeaways

Whether you need a fun afternoon activity on a rainy day or a way to distract the kids from so much screen time, this is the experiment for you. As far as easy science experiments for kids are concerned, this homemade lava lamp is a winner. Despite being simple and quick, it will also teach your kids scientific principles. The best part, though, is the souvenir from their hard work that will bring endless amounts of joy. 

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