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Maker Monday: Create a DIY “lava lamp”

Oil and water don’t mix — except when you combine them in fun S.T.E.A.M. projects like this Maker Monday DIY “lava lamp.”

Create this week’s Maker Monday project and watch its hypnotic rising blobs of color.

The science behind the magic comes from the fact that water is denser than oil. The evidence is seen in how the oil floats on top of the layer of water. Once you drop a piece of the effervescent tablet into the bottle, it sinks to the bottom. Then you can see carbon dioxide being released in the form of tiny bubbles. As the carbon dioxide gas rises through the layers of water and oil, it pushes blobs of color to the surface.

A note to kid makers: Please work with a parent or caregiver on this Maker Monday project and always be very careful when using tools of any kind.

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Maker Monday materials you’ll need:

  • an empty plastic bottle with a cap
  • effervescent tablets (Alka-Seltzer or a generic version)
  • cooking oil
  • food coloring
  • water

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Step One: Fill the water bottle about 3/4 full with oil. Then add water to fill.

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Step Two: Choose your color and add a few drops of food coloring to the bottle.

Step Three: Break two effervescent tablets into three or four pieces each. Add one piece, and wait to see what happens: Watch the groovy show of “lava lamp” blobs move around inside the bottle.

Step Four: As the bubbling stops, continue adding pieces of tablet to keep the show going.

When you’re done with the fun, screw the cap on tightly and save it for another day when you can add more tablet pieces to enjoy your “lava lamp” again.

Fun variations:

  • add glitter with the food coloring
  • turn off the lights and hold a flashlight underneath to make your “lava lamp” glow.
  • add a glow stick to give your “lamp” a special effect.

Want more at-home fun creating cool stuff and making beautiful things? Check out more Maker Monday projects right here.

Do you have an idea for a Maker Monday craft project? If so, please share it with Kidsburgh! Send your maker activities to