I’ve been out and about the last few weeks and on several separate occasions – moms asked me if I had any fun science-related activities they could do with their kids. Now that the holidays are behind us – spring break is right around the corner and you’ve got to keep those kiddos occupied somehow! I’ll help you turn your home into a fun and educational science classroom – one science experiment at a time! The best part? You probably have everything you need (already) inside your house!
This week we’re going to tackle scientific concepts like intermolecular polarity, density of liquids and phase changes! Sounds pretty wordy, huh? Well – it’s all super easy to understand when you’re making LAVA LAMPS! You’ll need a one liter bottle, tap water, vegetable oil, food coloring and one Alka-seltzer tablet (or anything that fizzes in water). Here’s what you need to do:
- Pour tap water into the bottle – about a quarter of the way up.
- Slowly pour the vegetable oil into the bottle until it’s almost full. Leave a little space at the top.
- Add about 10 drops of food coloring to the bottle (any color will work). The drops will pass through the oil and then mix with the water below.
- Break an Alka-seltzer tablet in half and drop the pieces into the bottle. Watch them sink to the bottom and let the blobby fun times commence!
- To keep the lava lamp effect going, just add another tablet.
- You can store it for a rainy day by simply putting the lid back on the bottle.
So what’s going on here and how does this all work? Well let’s go back to some of that science jargon – like ‘intermolecular polarity.’ That’s a fancy way of saying – water and oil don’t like each other. Most people know this, but don’t know WHY. At the molecular level – water likes…other water molecules and oil likes other oil molecules. You’ll never look at your salad vinaigrette the same again! Science is cool! The water settles to the bottom of the bottle – not because you poured it in first, but because it’s heavier or MORE DENSE than the vegetable oil. The food coloring is also water-based so it sinks to the bottom too. The seltzer tablet creates a gas that has to escape from the top of the bottle, but before it rises through the oil, the blobs will pick up some of the food coloring! Once the gas is released into the air – the colored blobs fall back to the bottom and that process continues until the fizzing stops. The best part about this experiment is you can keep it for another long weekend or rainy day! All you need to start that lava lamp effect again is another seltzer tablet. For even more fun – turn off the kitchen lights and shine a flashlight through the bottom of the bottle!
See – science rules! This fun activity is a part of my new weekly series – ‘Questions For Kyle.’ It airs every Tuesday morning and I’ll be answering your kids’ science questions LIVE on the air. Some weeks I’ll show you a fun new experiment like the homemade lava lamps this week! If you like it – please share it around on social media and send me pictures or videos of you and your kids having fun learning about science! That’s the point of all of this – getting kids more excited about science and maybe you’ll learn something along the way too!
Have a great day!
– KSNT Storm Track Meteorologist Kyle Borchert