Create Your Own Cave in a Cup Activity

Create Your Own Cave in a Cup Activity

Posted on Friday, March 20, 2020, by Hubert Heck

Create your own cave. As water flows beneath the Earth's surface it dissolves and erodes the rock, forming the cavities that become caves.

The slow process that left the Ozarks honeycombed with springs, caves, and sinkholes is happening all the time. It never comes to an end. As soon as one is complete, another has started

The list of factors needed for the perfect cave-creating environment is short. You need plenty of soluble rock, like all the limestone found in the Ozarks. Add plenty of rain or melting snow to supply the groundwater. Finally, since water flows downhill, you need uneven land (hills/mountains). And there's no shortage of hilly terrain in the Ozarks.

  • Soluble rock is a rock that can be dissolved or broken down by water
  • Groundwater is water that has soaked into the Earth’s surface finding its way into voids and fractures in the soil and rock

To create your own cave at home, here's a list of supplies

  • Clear plastic cup
  • Sand
  • Waterproof wood glue
  • Something to puncture the cup to allow water to escape (a nail works well)
  • A large basin to catch the run-off water
  • Warm water
Recreating the layers of the earth in a cup

Cave in a Cup Activity

  1. Place a layer of sand at the bottom of your cup about ¾” thick.
  2. On top of the sand, place a layer of sugar cubes (as many that will fit).
  3. Completely cover the sugar cubes with waterproof wood glue (enough glue to run along the sides of the sugar cubes).
  4. Add another layer of sand on top of the glue.
  5. Repeat the process until you have multiple layers of sand, sugar cubes and glue. As you build up your layers, stop about an inch to a half inch from the top of the cup. Place a final layer of sand on top of the last layer of glue.
  6. Let dry (this may take 1-2 days).
  7. Poke 1 or 2 holes on the side of the cup near the very bottom where you see sugar cubes.
  8. Place your completed cave in a cup in a lager container to catch the flow of water and then begin to slowly pour warm water onto that top layer of sand in the cup. Let the water percolate through the layers to find the holes near the bottom. Continue to pour warm water until all of the sugar cubes dissolve, leaving behind the hardened glue and sand.
adding warm water to start the cave creation process inside a cup

The process you are witnessing within your cup occurs beneath the surface of the Ozarks constantly

As water flows beneath the Earth's surface, it washes away bits of the limestone beneath the ground. The groundwater chemically and physically eats away at the limestone. This slow erosion of rock over time forms the openings that eventually become caves. Water passes through voids in the limestone underlain in the Ozarks, taking small pieces of rock with it. That action also allows for the production of all the cave formations we love, such as stalactites, stalagmites, columns and many others.

You can create your own cave in a cup pretty quickly, but the caves found in the Ozarks are really old... we just don't know how old

It is very difficult to determine the age of a cave because the rates of water flow and chemical activity vary widely throughout time. The caves of the Ozarks are very old, but we really don't know how old. Unless it's interrupted, this process will continue throughout the life of the cave, until the cave finally deteriorates and is destroyed by the same natural processes that created it. Sometimes there are remnants - a natural bridge, a canyon-like valley or a tunnel perhaps - to indicate that a cave was once there.

Create your own cave in a cup

The list of ingredients for making a cave is short

You need plenty of limestone, a rock that can be dissolved in groundwater. Add plenty of rain to supply the groundwater. Finally, since water flows downhill, you need what geologist call "relief" - uneven land.

For untold ages, the same processes that created Fantastic Caverns also created the nearly 7,500 plus other caves in “the Show Me State”. It’s no wonder Missouri is also known as “the Cave State.” The karst areas of the Ozarks - southern Missouri, northern Arkansas and parts of eastern Oklahoma and Kansas - are perfect for this cave building process to take place.

Water moving through the auditorium at Fantastic Caverns

Latest Blog Posts

The latest about our Missouri cave, and other Fantastic Caverns news.

Make Your Own Limestone Fossil Sugar Cookies
You can find fossilized remains of ancient creatures within the limestone of Fantastic Caverns. Create your own limestone-inspired fossils in the form of sugar cookies.
Health and Safety are top priorities at Fantastic Caverns
We have temporarily closed in an effort prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The underground fleet
Climb aboard the underground fleet at Fantastic Caverns and explore the world beneath your feet. Touring Fantastic Caverns by Jeep drawn trams helps preserve the cave. America's Ride Thru Cave may not be inhabited by humans but the cave system does have a thriving ecology of small critters that call it home.
America's ride thru cave
Missouri caves are well known as the most beautiful caves to see in North America and Fantastic Caverns ranks #1 by many. It's America's favorite ride-through cave attraction and uses their signature red Jeeps to drive you around through the cave.
Fantastic Caverns' Adventure Tour offers enrichment opportunities
Cub Scouts and participants of a new gifted outreach project got a sneak-peek of the upcoming art, science and history program coming to Fantastic Caverns called Adventure Tour. This was an opportunity for enrichment for the kids, and allowed the team at Fantastic Caverns to practice the program before its launch.
Fossilized limestone from Phenix Marble used in new construction
Phenix Marble Company mines block from the same Fossilized limestone deposit that also houses Fantastic Caverns. Stone from Phenix Marble Quarry to be used in grounds improvement projects at Fantastic Caverns.
Saturated grounds provide unique opportunities for visitors
Fantastic Caverns offers free walk-through of the Hall of Giants after extensive rainfall causes flooding.
Cave mapping our Missouri cave, Fantastic Caverns
Cave mapping a cave system is no easy task, but cave maps are useful to scientists and conservationists - and to our many visitors that come to see Fantastic Caverns. Learn how our Missouri cave system was mapped to show direction, length, width, and locations of many of the cave formations inside.
Summer Discovery, Fantastic Caverns' summertime program
Fantastic Caverns had the Boys and Girls Clubs of Springfield participate in their Summer Discovery program.
Missouri State University students filmed at Fantastic Caverns
Fantastic Caverns worked with Missouri State University (MSU) students on a new school film project titled, "What if it’s Poison".
What The Great Blue Hole and Fantastic Caverns have in common
What The Great Blue Hole, Richard Branson and Fantastic Caverns have in common. The same processes that created the limestone caves of the Ozarks, such as Fantastic Caverns, also created The Great Blue Hole.
Protecting Fantastic Caverns from TCE
How Fantastic Caverns is preserving and protecting it's natural cave attraction from man-made chemicals, so the cave system can be enjoyed by people for generations to come.
Phone: 417-833-2010
Fax: (417) 833-2042
Fantastic Caverns
4872 N Farm Rd 125
Springfield, MO 65803
Trip Adviser certificate of excellence for Fantastic Caverns