Groovy Lava Lamp

Activity by National Geographic Kids


Using stuff you probably have lying around the kitchen, you and your family can make your very own lava lamp and learn a bit of science while doing it!


  • Clear jar with lid
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Glitter (Choose biodegradable glitter made from eucalyptus plants instead of the plastic version!)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Flashlight
  • Captions


Make a groovy lava lamp and learn about liquid densities with this simple lava lamp hack! When picking up supplies, choose biodegradable glitter made from eucalyptus plants instead of the plastic version!

Step 1

Fill the jar three-quarters full of water. Add drops of food coloring until you like the color you see. A few drops go a long way! Sprinkle in glitter for extra sparkle.

Step 2

Fill the jar almost to the top with the oil and let the mixture separate.

Step 3

Pour salt into the jar until you see the cool lava lamp effect. When the bubbles stop, add more salt to see it again.

Step 4

Shine a flashlight behind the jar to watch your lava lamp really glow!

How does it Work?

The secret behind the lamp’s “lava” is science. Oil is lighter, or less dense, than water, so it rises to the surface. Salt is heavier, or more dense, than water, and sinks to the bottom. When you add the salt, blobs of oil attach to the grains and sink. Then the salt dissolves, and the oil returns to the top. The result? A liquid show for the eyes.

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