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Display of Diwali-fireworks in our Homemade Lava Lamp!

Science experiments can be such amazing tools for play for young children, I can't write enough how much we love them!

Having said that, when we do play with one or the other science experiment, I sometimes reflect back – with a tinge of heartbreak – on my own school days in the physics and science lab. I wish those experiments in the labs were conducted with a spirit of play and wonder for us to be able to enjoy the learning to the hilt rather than look upon them as classes of grave importance where we ought to follow the experiment to the 'T' or we would end up with nothing relevant (really?) to write about in the inference column!

This limitation and pressure never allowed me to enjoy those 45 minutes in the science lab. For, the only objective in my mind was to do the experiment the 'right' way to be able to get the result that the teacher and the text book mentioned we should get.

But here, in our home-school, there's no such pressure. There's no right or wrong way. There will be failed experiments. The experiments will turn out one or the other way. What matters is the fun of exploring and uncovering.

Last week, we did one such science experiment that goes so well with the festive spirit we are in these days. It is a perfect way to touch upon the concept of liquids, their density and chemical reaction.

It is a mini fireworks of sorts – albeit – without fire and in bottles!

The pictures, mind you, are not 10 percent as gorgeous as the actual scene. Yes, this experiment created the most mesmerizing sight that a child can ever behold. Sadly, I had to use my point-and-shoot camera rather than my DSLR as it was discharged. That's another reason the pictures are not doing justice.

But then, truth be told, no camera could have ever captured the colourful, magical phenomena that this experiment led to.

You have to do it to believe it! As simple as that. (smiles)

The process is super cheap and easy to set up. Not much mess either.

This is all we needed:

  • Four 1 litre bottles. (you can do this in just 1 bottle if you wish)
  • 1 Funnel
  • 1 litre oil (for the 4 bottles. Less, if you use only 1 bottle)
  • Water
  • Food Colour 
  • Effervescent tablets like – Histac or Pepfiz (available in India) or Alka-Seltzer (if you're in U.S.)

How to?

We placed the three bottles on our dining table and filled each with 1/3 water. Next, with the help of the funnel, Pari poured oil into each bottle – about 1 cm from the rim.

Once this was done, she added drops of different colours toe ach. I had her use different 'types' of color to see how each will react and which one will produce best results. She added green food colour to one, blue tempera paint to another, orange tempera paint to the third (also added few drops of red glass colour).

See the pictures and read on to know which colour worked best.

Right from how the color 'glides' through the oil before it reaches water to how it reacts later – food colour is much more impactful compared to tempera paint and glass colour. 

Finally, I gave her the effervescent tablet after breaking them into smaller pieces.

This was the WOW moment, when an explosion took place inside the bottle and the color drops collided with water to rise above the surface of the oil. In the process, firework-like reaction takes place with the glistening balls of colour wrapped in water and oil go around vigorously inside the bottle. 

So, what really happens is – oil and water don't mix with each other. Oil being less dense, floats on water. When the effervescent tablet is introduced, it reacts with water to release carbon dioxide gas. This gas is less dense compared to oil, so it wants to rise above the oil surface. In the process, it takes some water along with it. When the gas bubbles reach the oil surface, they pop and the water falls back through the oil. Read a detailed explanation complete with chemical equation etc. over here.

The whole reaction causes lot of agitation and momement turning it into a brilliant display of light and colour – so Diwali-like!

It's breathtaking! As she went on adding more tablets, the explosion of colour continues. It's nothing less than a miniature version of fireworks. Except that we didn't need any fire to create this show!

Before long, Avie comes back from office and is immediately sucked in, in this brilliant display. He recorded the experiment.

Pari went on adding the effervescent tablets till they were all gone. She wanted to do some more. So, I brought in the 'ENO' – the anti-acidity powder that is so common in India not just for indigestion and flatulence but also to make instant-idlis or instant Dhoklas etc!

I really recommend you to try this lava lamp experiment this Diwali or Christmas!

For more amazing science experiments, refer to these wonderful resources:


I would love to know any other useful resource to do science-based activities with kids. Please share if you know if any. 

Or, feel free to link to any science experiment that you did with your child.

{ 32 comments… add one }

  • Reshma@masalamangomantra.blogspot.com October 17, 2011, 4:19 pm

    That’s an amazing idea! The orange and green are absolutely lovely!

    • Rashmie Jaaju October 19, 2011, 3:08 pm

      Thank you for stopping by! Yeah, that hue of fluorescent orange – isn’t that unique!

  • Prabha October 17, 2011, 5:51 pm

    What a wonderful and colorful blog? We did lava lamps too but I would say it was more like a warm up project I guess. Didn’t find the results that I wanted to. I did not use the tablets. Is it important to use that? We tried with oil, water, some salt and tempera color… :( tips, please.


    • Rashmie Jaaju October 19, 2011, 3:11 pm

      We used that tablet for the chemical reaction it causes. Because it is the reaction that causes that lava-like eruption. You can get the same chemical reaction by adding vinegar and then some soda-bicarb. Do try again and see how it goes :)

  • Ashu October 18, 2011, 6:27 am

    Rashmie ..Amazing activity,i m reading with so much eagerness..what next ..what next…Ahh amazing.True said lovely firework without any fire…will try the same with Khwaish.

    I loved the expression on Pari’s Face when explosion is taking place…Its like ‘WOW’..infact same here too.

    • Rashmie Jaaju October 19, 2011, 3:13 pm

      Yeah – you’re so right – that expression is priceless. Isn’t it so worth the while!
      It amazes me how such experiences can bring in that unadulterated joy that no store-bought toy can purchase..!
      Thank You, Ashu for the lovely comment :)

  • Melissa @imaginationsoup October 18, 2011, 12:08 pm

    the look on her face – pure amazement and delight! What a fantastic learning activity!

    • Rashmie Jaaju October 19, 2011, 3:15 pm

      The look of wonder – yeah! I haven’t seen any store-bought toy evoke that kind of amazement. Thank you, dear, for stopping by. :)

  • Kirsty@BowerbirdBlue October 19, 2011, 1:38 pm

    My son would love love love this. Great look of amazement on your girl’s face. The CSIRO sends out a great free newsletter in Australia http://www.csiro.au/services/Science-By-Email-Main.html – lots of interesting experiments! They also have activities on their site.

    • Rashmie Jaaju October 19, 2011, 3:19 pm

      Thank you for stopping by. :)
      This CSIRO resource that you shared looks very helpful. I’ve subscribed to it.
      Do try this experiment with your son. I would love to see how yours turn out.

  • Neera October 19, 2011, 3:19 pm

    Very beautiful Rashmie. Thanks for sharing this at an absolutely appropriate time. I had bought the food coloring the past weekend for this experiment but had read it elsewhere where it asked to add salt in the last step. After reading your post bought the Alka Seitzer tablets and couldn’t wait to try it out the next day, so did a demonstration for husband and myself after the kids went to bed :) Plan on starting the Diwali festivities with the kids today once they return from school. Loved the ‘cooked’ art idea too and plan on making Diwali cards with that. It has to be the divine hand that I found your delightful blog at this time of the year :) Pari’s expression is priceless.

    • Rashmie Jaaju October 19, 2011, 3:26 pm

      Welcome to Mommy Labs and thank you so much for stopping by to connect. :)
      So glad you are going to do the Lava Lamp as well as the cooked art activity with your kiddos. These two are such child-driven projects that kids will have unadulterated fun. The best part is the result ensures loads of surprise and wonder.
      So happy to ‘meet’ you, Neera. Keep coming back :)

  • Toddler Approved October 19, 2011, 5:08 pm

    Awesome and beautiful! Thanks for linking up today. I have never done this sort of project before and now I really want to try it.

    • Rashmie Jaaju October 21, 2011, 7:39 pm

      @Toddler Approved – Glad you like our lava lamps. Do try these. I’m sure you’ll have fun :)

  • Emma @sciencesparks October 19, 2011, 7:48 pm


    Lava lamps are great aren’t they? We have tried those too :-)

    Check out Science Sparks for lots of fun science activities for children. xx

    • Rashmie Jaaju October 21, 2011, 7:42 pm

      Thank You for stopping by. I checked out your site and subscribed. It’s a great resource for science-based activities. Thank you for sharing!

  • Esther October 20, 2011, 2:32 am

    Wow! Wonderful Lava lamps! Pari expression shows all the fun she had! So adorable!

    • Rashmie Jaaju October 21, 2011, 7:43 pm

      Glad you liked our lava lamps.
      Going to check out your drip-paint pumpkin. Sounds interesting :)

  • Natalie October 20, 2011, 4:42 pm

    How awesome! I am definitely going to do it soon. Love the colorful results!

    • Rashmie Jaaju October 21, 2011, 7:50 pm

      Thanks Natalie. I would love to see the photos of your Lava Lamps :)

  • Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas October 23, 2011, 9:56 pm

    I did this with my 1st graders and have been meaning to do it with my girls! They would love this & I truly wonder why I have yet to do it with them!

    Thanks for sharing on the Sunday Showcase! I hope to see you again this week! I showcased these on facebook & Twitter!


  • Laura@art4littlehands October 24, 2011, 3:00 am

    What a wonderful science project. I can tell by the picture it was marvelous because of the look on your daughters face. I have to try this! I am pinning it as soon as a can. Thanks for sharing on Monday Madness. Hope you come back again tomorrow!

    • Rashmie Jaaju November 3, 2011, 7:36 am

      This Lava Lamp is so much fun for not just kids but for us too. You must try. I am sure you will enjoy as much :)

  • Brooke @Let Kids Create October 24, 2011, 4:10 am

    I can tell this is fun by the look on her face! I would love to try this for New Year’s. Thanks for sharing it with us on Monday Madness!

    • Rashmie Jaaju November 3, 2011, 7:35 am

      Thank You, Brooke. New Year’s is a perfect time to enjoy these indoor fireworks!

  • maggy, red ted art November 4, 2011, 2:16 pm

    Oh my! Your little girl’s face is simply PRECIOUS! How adorable! Makes me want to run off and do the experiment with my two ASAP!!

    Thanks for sharing on Kids Get Crafty!


  • Mo January 11, 2012, 6:54 pm

    Just had fun doing this with my 3 yr old. She loved it. Lots of fun for mom too. Thanks for sharing.

  • Liz June 8, 2012, 9:10 pm

    Rashmie, I just wanted to say thank you for all of your blogging. You are a major source of inspiration for me and I appreciate you very much! Now, please move to Seattle and become my neighbor so we can become best friends. :-)
    We copied your experiment http://www.smallhandsbigworld.blogspot.com/2012/06/lava-lamp-fireworks.html and had such a great time. Thank you again!

    • Rashmie June 11, 2012, 11:33 am

      What a lovely, lovely comment :-) Thank you for so much love. Gosh, I wish I could travel the world and get to meet such amazing online friends like yourself.
      I hope I can visit you and your family some day. And, I take this opportunity to invite you to stay with us if you ever visit India :-)
      Big hugs, my friend! I’ll go visit your blog now…

  • lucy March 17, 2014, 7:59 pm

    What does the salt do to affect the lava lamp?

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