How to Create a Coconut Volcano

Three Parts:Building Your Coconut VolcanoMaking a Lava SolutionErupting the Coconut Volcano

A coconut volcano is a fun and effective science experiment for kids. This can be set up quickly since using the coconut shell will allow you to skip having to create a time consuming papier mâché volcano. All you have to do is crack and clean the coconut, mix up an acid solution (lava), and put the pieces together. These volcanoes can be a great way to start teaching kids about science, and watching one of these volcanoes explode is just plain fun!

Part 1
Building Your Coconut Volcano

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    Choose a space that is easy to clean. This is a messy project so find an area that can cope with getting a little messy, or work in an area that can be covered thoroughly with newspaper (such as the kitchen counter or table). You can skip the messy newspaper if you do the experiment outside on gravel.[1] Another suggestion is to do it in the bath tub (during a bathtime is even better since the lava will start to change the color of the bath water).[2]
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    Put some baking soda in a small cup. You want to add about a cup of baking soda inside your volcano. You can use an empty yogurt cup or other plastic container to hold the baking soda underneath the volcano shell. Just be sure that the cup is clean and dry.[3]
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    Prepare the coconut. Start by using a screwdriver to open up one or more of the holes on the top of the coconut. Drain the coconut water out through these holes. Then, you can use the blunt end of a knife to break the coconut in half along the groove that wraps around the middle of the coconut (in most store bought coconuts). If there is no groove, you can make one with a knife or other sharp object. Clear out the flesh of the coconut, and place the side with the three holes upside down over your baking soda cup.[4]
    • Any steps involving a knife, screwdriver, or other potential safety hazard should be done or supervised by an adult.
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    Add some toys and props. You can set some plants or toy trees around the volcano. Then add a few dinosaurs or forest animals to the scene. This will help kids stretch their imaginations and make the volcano even more fun. You can also make up a story to go along with the erupting volcano.[5]

Part 2
Making a Lava Solution

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    Pour some plain vinegar into another small cup. A plastic cup will be fine for this step, too. You will need to put about one cup of vinegar in the cup.[6] This will make enough lava solution for several eruptions.
    • Since vinegar is an acid, it will react with the baking soda (which is a base) in what is known as a neutralization reaction. This releases gasses and ultimately causes fizzing and bubbling that these volcanoes are known for. The gasses released also build the pressure necessary to force the “lava” out of the volcano.[7]
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    Add a spoonful of dish soap to your cup of vinegar. Adding a little bit of dish soap will help make the more bubbles. As the vinegar and baking soda react, they release gases that must move through the soap to escape. This causes the soap to bubble up, much like when you blow bubbles outside. About one teaspoon of soap should work well, but you can experiment with more or less to change how your lava looks.[8]
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    Add food coloring. The food coloring doesn’t contribute to the reaction, but it does give your lava the red color that kids might expect (unless you use a different color). You should only need a few drops, but again, you can try adding more or less to see how it changes your lava. Just be careful not to get the food coloring on any easily stained surfaces or clothes.[9]
    • Using washable paint is a good alternative to using food coloring. It is less likely to stain surfaces or hands, and still gives your lava a fun color![10]

Part 3
Erupting the Coconut Volcano

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    Use a syringe to draw up some of the “lava.” Use a bulb syringe or a regular small syringe to suck up as much liquid as possible. Do this near the coconut to minimize spills and drips from transporting the lava solution to the coconut. Wearing gloves during this step can help minimize stains on your hands and fingers.[11]
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    Squirt the lava solution into the top of the coconut volcano. Remember the three little holes that you used to drain the water? Now you can stick the syringe in one of those same holes and squirt in your lava solution. This will bring the lava in contact with the baking soda and start the reaction![12]
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    Watch the eruption. Pull the syringe away quickly and step back to watch the volcano. The vinegar solution and baking soda should start to react, sending bubbles and liquid out of the holes at the top of your coconut volcano. The kids love this part, and it’s a great time to explain the science involved.[13]
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    Replace the baking soda and do it again. The best thing about the coconut volcano is that it is easy to replicate. Just lift the coconut up and put more baking soda underneath. Then, get some more of your lava solution and make it erupt again.[14]
    • When you are finished making your volcano erupt, you can save it to use as a normal toy volcano.[15]
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    Let your kids participate. Watching the volcano erupt is great, but actually helping create and carry out the experiment will make your kids love it that much more. Using the syringe to suck up the lava and squirt it into the volcano will give them a chance to work on their fine motor skills. Also, seeing that they can cause the volcano to erupt will make them more receptive to learning the science behind their new entertainment.[16]


  • Perform this experiment in the tub if you have small children. Could be a fun bath time activity (just make sure your child is not allergic to any of the ingredients).
  • Create a “clear” volcanic explosion by omitting the red food coloring. You can avoid getting red on everything, plus whatever the liquid hits will get a little “cleaner” thanks to the combination of baking soda, dish soap and vinegar.


  • Be careful not to seal off the baking soda and vinegar reaction. If you close off the top of the volcano, it will build up pressure and could result in the reactants spewing out forcefully. While this will most likely result in little more than a miss, it should can be avoided by leaving the top open.
  • Baking soda is basic and vinegar is acidic. While these chemicals are fairly mild, you should still avoid getting them in your eyes.

Things You’ll Need

  • Empty coconut shell (cut in half)
  • Empty yogurt or applesauce cup
  • Plastic cup
  • White vinegar
  • Red food coloring or washable paint
  • Dish soap
  • Baking soda
  • Nasal aspirator (or a small poultry baster)

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