Spooky Lava Lamps

Lava lamps are one my favourite things to make, they are so easy, but really impressive for children to watch.

You will need

  • A clear plastic bottle or jar
  • A bottle of vegetable oil
  • Water
  • Alka Seltzer
  • Food colouring (a spooky colour )


Fill the bottle or jar  a quarter full with water. Top up to the (near) top with the vegetable oil! They should separate into two layers, water at the bottom and oil sitting on top. Add about 6-8 drops of food colouring once they have separated. The colour will mix with the water at the bottom. Pop in half an alka seltzer tablet and watch the bubbles form. Add more alka seltzer bit by bit to keep the bubbles rising and falling.


Whatever you do, do NOT shake them up like my 2 year old did. Lets just say it was very messy!

The Science bit

Firstly water and oil will not mix – this is because we say that water is a polar molecule – it’s structure means that is has a positive charge one end and a negative charge the other. Water molecules stick together because the positive end of one water molecule is attracted to the negative end of another.Oil molecule structure is different – it is non polar meaning that its charge is more evenly spread out, so the oil is not attracted to water – in fact we call it hydrophobic (water fearing) so it tries to get as far away from water as possible and will not mix. The reason that oil rests on top of the water rather than underneath is because it has a different density to water.

As the alka seltzer is added (this is made of citric acid and sodium bicarbonate) it reacts with the water and form carbon dioxide gas and Sodium citrate. It is the carbon dioxide bubbles that carry the coloured water to the top.

Author: Emma Vanstone

Science Sparks, is a site dedicated to making Science fun for kids. I’d love you to follow me on my Google Profile+.

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  1. I always assumed that these were much harder to make – sure Scamp would LOVE to make a pink version so we’ll try to have a go!

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    • they are fab, and you can reuse them!

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  2. I’ve never heard of adding alka seltzer (where have I been?). These are great! Thanks for the ideas!

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    • It is very cool.

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  3. Is there a way to print out how to make the lava lamps? Its a great idea but I can’t have 20 kids around one computer to find out how to do this.

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  4. I have just discovered this site and it’s great. My daughter aged 4 is just getting into science and I was thinking about buying her a science kit but now I think I can use these ideas instead!

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    • Thats so lovely to hear. Thank you. xx

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  5. I’ll try these on Halloween and let you know how it goes… I plan on dressing as a mad scientist… the kids will love it!!!

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    • oooh that sounds fun!

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  6. Thank you for the great instructions! I haven’t tried the alka seltzer before. I would like to see how long it lasts.

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  7. Great idea!
    With plastic, would you have to leave the cap off or just make sure it’s screwed on really tight? Don’t want it exploding in the faces of my class!
    Also, would it work with dissolvable asprin as I am out of Alka Seltzer and not sure I can make it to the shop in time….

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    • I’m going to try it for my grands bday party 10/31 thanks, oh and for school too LOL

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      • This is a great activity for the end of the year after CRCT testing. I will be doing this with my class. Thank You so Much.

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