How to Create Lava Lamps

Last updated: April 18, 2020, at 11:56 a.m. PT

Originally published: April 6, 2020, at 11:48 a.m. PT

Watch as Nicole, a Y staff member, and her family make lava lamps together in this fun and engaging STEM activity!


To begin, color about 1/2 cup of water with food coloring. Take the Alka Seltzer tablets and break them into 2 or 3 pieces. Place them in a small cup or container. Fill a glass about 3/4 full with vegetable oil. Then pour in the colored water until the liquid in the cup is about 1-2 inches from the top. Let the children take turns adding a piece of an Alka Seltzer table to the cup. Make sure the kid(s) do not put the tablet in their mouth at any time.

Ingredients and Tools Needed

  • Vegetable Oil
  • Water
  • Food Coloring – Primary Colors or Neon
  • Original Alka Seltzer Tablets 

How this Science Experiment Works

The water and oil do not mix and the oil doesn’t change color because the food coloring is water soluble. The Alka Seltzer reacts with the water to make bubbles of carbon dioxide. The bubbles attach themselves to the blobs of colored water and bring them to the top of the glass. When the bubbles pop, the blobs of colored water fall back to the bottom of the glass