lava bottles

OK, this is seriously the coolest project we’ve done. The pictures don’t do it justice at all – you’ll really have to try this one yourself. I did this with the kiddos a few weeks ago and they loved it. I gave them a little science lesson while we did it of why oil and water don’t mix, but it probably went a little over their heads, lol. This was a really fun project and I already had everything I needed for it except the alka seltzer, which was pretty cheap. I love that you can put the lid back on when you’re done to save it for another day. You can also turn this into a lava lamp if you put a light underneath it. Here’s how we made it:

What you’ll need:

clear plastic or glass bottle
baby oil
food colouring
alka seltzer


1. Take the lid off your bottle. Make sure your bottle is clean and fill it about 1/8th full with water.

2. Fill the rest of the bottle with baby oil until nearly full – watch the oil and water separate – very cool!

3. Slowly add drops of food colouring a couple at a time – this step is really neat – the food colouring stays in little balls as it drops through the oil and then pools where the water and oil meet – gradually these little balls burst and fill the water with colour

4. When the food colouring has mixed with the water, break up an alka seltzer tablet into a few pieces and drop the pieces in and watch the magic happen. The pictures don’t do this justice at all and I couldn’t photograph this for the life of me without getting a light reflection on the bottle. I even moved locations and it didn’t work.

5. You can repeat step #4 until your little heart’s content and when you and the kiddos have had enough, put the lid back on for another day.

Experiment from Science Bob

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32 thoughts on “lava bottles

  1. Jennifer Runde

    How cool is that?! It would be GREAT for a science lesson on buoyancy!
    Or do 5 or 6 with different colours in glass bottles and add different water/oil levels in each. You could ‘play’ them by hitting them with a spoon and make a super cool rainbow lava musical instrument. (betcha that would make a neat picture) ;)

  2. lizzandlittlebit

    We used to do this experiment in school, but never with alka seltzer. Definately going to try this with my kiddo! If you wanted to, we used to super glue the cap back on, then shake the bottle as much as we could to try to mix the oil and water. It always separated back.

  3. Sherry and Donna

    We did this with our children at kinder and the boys in particular were fascinated with it. We had an electric lava lamp we lit it up every day but it wasn’t until the children made their own that their interest was engaged. It led to so much science and learning about why the bubbles rise and fall … it was fantastic!
    Donna :) :)

  4. Jill

    Thanks ladies!

    Kristi – I got the container at a store called Winner’s (in Canada) at Christmas. It was filled with hot chocolate mix. That probably won’t help you though!

  5. Marcia

    I’ve done this activity many times but without the alka-seltzer. That will be a fun new twist – thanks!

    Have you tried the alka-seltzer in Pepsi yet?


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