Kids + Toys (Educational + Fun) = Future Innovators

Tag Archives: preschool science

diy lava lampsWe just participated in the Champlain Mini Maker Faire at Shelburne Farms in Vermont.  IMG_2147[1]Are you familiar with the Maker Movement?  The Maker Movement celebrates a “do-it-yourself” (DIY) mindset – from arts and crafts to science and engineering.  There seems to be a focus on technology which is a great way to introduce kids to STEM or STEAM. (STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, math.)




There were great robotics demonstrations but our decidedly low-tech DIY lava lamps were incredibly popular.  Even the robotics club high-schoolers and adults loved them!

Lava Lamps – Great Science Project

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This project is a great opportunity for kids to learn about density, color mixing and the properties of carbon dioxide. Ask questions like:

  • Which liquid is on top? Why?
  • Why does it bubble?
  • How does the color bubble up through the oil?
  • Why do the color droplets not burst until they hit the water?

Everyone seemed fascinated about how they “worked” so we decided to write up a tutorial. A lot of teachers were interested in making the lava lamps in class and we talked about how you could break up the steps to accommodate multiple days of learning.  More than 100 kids made lava lamps at our event, so we bought our supplies in bulk but here are directions for making one lava lamp.  Just multiply the ingredients for however many makers you have.

diy lava lampSupplies Needed

  • Empty bottle with cap (12 oz water bottles work well.)
  • Oil (vegetable or baby oil)
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Alka Seltzer tablets broken into 3 or 4 pieces
  • Plastic funnel
  • Plastic or metal tray (or something to capture spills if they happen!)
  • Flashlight or other light source
  • Cleaning supplies (oil is slippery!)


Lava Lamp Directions

  • Using a funnel, fill the bottles 1/4 full with water.
  • Again, using a funnel, fill the remaining 3/4 of the bottle with oil.
  • Once the water and oil are separated, add 5-6 drops of food coloring.  You can adjust this as you like. The more the better, I think.
  • Watch the drops of oil float down through the oil.  They remain intact as they float down and it’s pretty fascinating to watch.  They’ll lay on the bottom layer of the oil until they break through to the water and the droplets of color burst and color the water.
  • Next, add a piece of the Alka Seltzer tablet.  The carbon dioxide brings up the color into the oil.  When the bubbling stops, just add another piece of the tablet.
  • Shine a flashlight through the side or bottom of the bottle.

diy lava lamp


Observations and Tips

  • We used vegetable oil. The vegetable oil worked well but it’s yellow in color so baby oil might be nicer since it is clear.
  • Let the oil and water completely separate, if you can.  This might be a good stopping place to let the bottle sit overnight.   You don’t have to wait for it to completely separate but it will be more visually powerful when you add the food coloring.
  • We had adults pour the water and oil. You can decide if you’d like to make this a pouring activity for kids.
  • Bottles size doesn’t matter unless you are trying to economize on oil (it can get expensive!) Most of ours were 12 oz which means 8-9 oz of oil per bottle. When we ran out of 12 oz bottles, we moved to 8 oz bottles.  They worked just as well as the 12 oz bottles.
  • Make sure the caps fit!
  • We used baking trays with a shallow lip to catch any spills. The shallow trays let little ones see their lamps.
  • Young children might need help putting the food coloring drops into the bottle.  Nearly every child was able to drop the Alka Seltzer pieces in.
  • Color mixing:  we found that yellow and red worked pretty well but red & blue did not. It ended up looking pretty muddy.
  • We used our lava lamp over and over again.  The oil started to look a little foggy.  Not sure if it was reuse or air temperature or humidity.  Don’t know if baby oil would have had a different effect.
  • To cap or not to cap?  We left the cap off during the bubbling process.  What would happen if you capped it right away?
  • Don’t forget clean up supplies – paper towels, wipes, etc.

Light up your Lava Lamp

IMG_2157[1]The kids loved the lava lamps in regular daylight but were amazed when we shone a light through the side.  One child told me later that she used it as a nightlight.

Our neighbors from the CVU Robohawks in Hinesburg, VT made us a light up base for our bottles.  They used a 3D printer to make it (took several hours) then, cut holes and put LED lights and a battery underneath.  Maker Power!!!

Your lava lamp will last forever.  Just add some alka seltzer when you’re ready to watch it in action.

April 22nd is Earth Day.    Earth Day Toys & Games for Kids

Toys & games are a great way to encourage your child’s environmental awareness since they learn through play.   Here are some ideas to help you celebrate Earth Day and to inspire our future conservationists, earth scientists, biologists, geographers….

Plan an Earth Day Party

Here is a great list of Earth Day activities, party snacks and a suggested reading list.  My favorite group activity in this list?

Recycling Relay
Line up children in two teams facing two empty bins. Give each team an equal pile of recyclables such as empty plastic bottles, cereal boxes, etc. Tell each child as they step to the front of their line to toss an item into the appropriate bin for paper or plastic. The team that finishes with the most items making it into the correct bin wins.

It’s never to early to teach youngsters about the importance of recycling. Check out Teach Preschool for another recycling activity for preschoolers.

Science Kits & Puzzles for Kids

Kids Recycling Science KitRecycling Science Kit

Curious about what happens after you put the recycling bin out at the curb? The Recycling Science Kit lets you explore what happens to the items you recycle.   Make recycled paper, learn about different recycling codes, pledge to be a super recycler and make a water filter. Illustrated instruction guide included. Ages 6 and up.


 4-D Biology Puzzles

Yes, I know these are made of plastic. But they offer an amazing learning experience about biology, anatomy & habitat plus they flex your spatial skills.

4d shark puzzleGreat White Shark 4D Animal Puzzle

Great White Sharks have become the stuff of legends. The Great White Shark 4D Animal Puzzle will let the young scientist or marine biologist explore the fascinating animal behind the myths.

This puzzle/model is fun to build and an illustrated assembly guide is chock full of interesting information about sharks and their anatomy. Puzzle includes 20 detachable organs and body parts. Completed model measures 13″ long and includes a display stand. Ages 8 and up.


4D scorpion biology puzzle4D Scorpion Biology Puzzle

Scorpions are found on every continent on Earth except Antarctica. Learn more about  the scorpion’s anatomy with this Scorpion 4D Animal Puzzle.  29 detachable organs and body parts combine into an accurate model that’s fun to assemble plus a great tool for learning more about Scorpions. An illustrated assembly guide will help you through the build and then challenge you with fun questions once the model is assembled. Completed model measures 8″ long and includes display stand. Ages 8 and up.

Wooly Mammoth 4D Kids PuzzleWooly Mammoth 4D Puzzle/Model

The Wooly Mammoth went extinct way before the first Earth Day celebration in 1970.  Our Wooly Mammoth 4D Animal Puzzle combines a fun-to-build puzzle with a highly detailed model. Kids will learn about the function and location of 26 different detachable organs and body parts.  Once built, puzzle measures 10″ long and includes a display stand and an illustrated assembly guide. Assembly guide has fun Q&A to test your knowledge of Wooly Mammoth anatomy. Ages 8 and up

 Learning Resources

Visit these organizations to learn more about conservation, species, habitat and what you can do.
Rainforest Alliance – Kids’ Corner
World Wildlife Fund – info on endangered species
Nature Conservancy – Earth Day activities
MarineBio Kids – lots of marine bio learning activities

What are your plans to celebrate Earth Day with your kids?

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