When I was still a science teacher, I used to do this DIY Mason Jar Lava Lamp demo with my kids when we were talking about density and hydrophilic and hydrophobic substances – and how oil and water don’t mix. When you layer oil on top of water, add some food coloring and pour in a little salt – you get a fun visual “lava lamp” that your kids will ask you to do over and over again!
Now when I’m home with my kiddos and its a rainy day or snow day, I’ll to go my cupboard and pull out these ingredients and it keeps them busy for awhile. 😉
Ingredients needed for your DIY Mason Jar Lava Lamp:
- large mason jar (here is a 64 oz one on Amazon) – or the largest clear glass container you have – the bigger the better! This Gallon Jar would be even better!
- vegetable oil
- food coloring
- salt with a pour-able spout
Start by filling your mason jar half way with water. Then add enough vegetable oil so you get about an inch thick layer of oil to lay on top of the water.
Your kids will just like watching the oil and water form cool shapes as you pour the oil into the water. You can use this as a science lesson and teach them about how oil and water will never mix together.
Wait for the oil to settle into an even flat layer on top of the water before you add food coloring.
Once the oil is settled, add one drop of each color of food coloring. I did one drop of red, yellow, green, and blue. You can pick and choose your own color combos. Act quickly on this step as you don’t want the food coloring to start dispersing until you pour in the salt.
Then get your salt and quickly pour in enough (a tablespoon or 2) salt to pull down the food coloring into the layer of water. The salt is the “lava” that will end up floating back up.
When you do this, the color patterns you see will be so much fun! You are sure to get a bunch of “Wow!” and “So Cool!” coming out of your kids mouths! 🙂
Wait a bit for the colors to mix and then you can pour in a bit more salt. If you look at the bottom here, you can see some of the salt starting to bubble back up to the surface. The salt carries down with it some oil, and since the oil is less dense than the water, it will float back up to the top, bringing some of the salt back up toward the top and mixing all of the colors.
Eventually your mixture will turn into a brown blob of food coloring, salty water and oil and you won’t be able to see the color explosion anymore. Your kids will ask you to do it again though – so I just dump it down the drain and do it again. The kids will all want to take turns putting in the food coloring and pouring the salt.
This DIY lava lamp is so great because most of you already have these ingredients already in your house. It’s a screen free kids activity that can also be a “science” demo that home-schoolers can use as a lesson. If your kids are giving you the “I’M BORED” whine, then add this to your repertoire of your parenting bag of tricks that will keep them busy.
Be sure to watch the video below of this in action!