Due to a shortened amount of time to plan this year, we opted for a simpler costume for the hosts and simpler menu and focus more on the activities for the kiddos. They are mostly between 7 and 12 years old, with a handful that are younger. We tossed around some ideas and decided to go with a Mad Scientist theme because I had been waiting patiently to do a sensory activity. One of my favorite Halloween memories is when we were blindfolded and were asked to feel of things. It is quite interesting how you perceive something when one sense is removed.
So, for our party, the idea was that our guests had arrived at Turner Up Labs, where the theory of big bangs are tested every day! As you can see, the last lab experiment didn’t work out so great for Dr. Kay Boom and her hair.
We told them that we were in need of assistants, and the activities of the night would test their skills to see if they qualified as potential employees. We divided the kiddos into three groups, mostly by age, and rotated them through each station. We even created forms for everyone to fill out, but it ended up being easier to just use them when we tested their inventory skills.
We have one room that has two doors and no windows, and it happened to have a dimmer switch for one set of lights in the room. It was perfect for the sensory activity. The kiddos were told that they would be tested on their inventory skills, but instead of using their eyes, they would use their hands. There were six items for them to feel and tell us how many were in each one. As they would start to put their hand into the hole, I would ask, “How many [insert item] do you feel?” There was quite the mixture of reactions, regardless of age.
Construction involved six shoe boxes. I used a saucer to trace a circle on one the end of the lid and cut it out with an Exact-o knife. Inside the box I placed a styrofoam bowl with the item to be “inventoried”. There are many choices on the internet, but we opted for these six:
Overcooked spaghetti as WORMS
Peeled grapes as EYEBALLS (google the how to)
Dried apricots as EARS
Cooked orzo as MAGGOTS
Bacon bits as SCABS
Popcorn kernels as TEETH
The boxes were lined up side by side on the table, and a black tablecloth from the party section of Walmart (about a dollar) was draped over the table and boxes. Holes were cut into the tablecloth right above the holes in the boxes. This helped with deterring anyone from peeking.
After all of the kiddos came through, there were some mommies that were nominated to try it also, which was quite funny. We did a big reveal to let the kids see what they had really been touching.
The best comment was “I will never look at bacon bits the same again.”
In the garage we set up two card tables side by side with a purple tablecloth, also from the party section of Walmart. One end of the table was prepared for making slime and the other was for making pumpkin playdough. I had researched and tried a few different slime recipes online, and my favorite was the following:
4 oz glue
½ T baking soda
food coloring or paint
1 T contact solution
Before everyone arrived, we put the glue in styrofoam bowls to keep things moving quickly.
Then we added the baking soda and coloring and mixed well before adding the contact solution. Then it was STIR FAST! It cleaned up completely in the bowl and they saw results immediately when the contact solution was added. We purchased these 5 oz cups from Amazon to contain the slime and playdough, which were delivered while we were eating! When the doorbell rang, we assumed it was another guest. He did have a most convincing costume as a UPS driver.
The pumpkin playdough was truly an experiment. It worked okay for some of the kiddos and not so great for the others. We made the executive decision that the very youngest guests would not make it because it did end up being very messy.
We needed larger bowls and probably a bit more cornstarch.
The recipe I used was the following:
½ c. canned pumpkin
½ c. cornstarch
½ t. pumpkin pie spice (I recommend using more, but we were limited with our supply)
It was funny to hear some of the girls talk about how bad the pumpkin smelled out of the can, but they really liked the pumpkin pie spice.
The third station was located outside because it was the messiest activities. There were three things for which they were to write a hypothesis:
1. How long would it take for the burp bag to burst?
2. How high will the soda shoot out of the bottle when the mentos were dropped in? Which goes higher, the dark cola or the colored cola?
3. Which size tablet causes the most bubbles in the lava lamp?
They were to add 1/3 c. white vinegar and ¼ c. warm water , and a drop of food coloring to a ziploc bag. Then drop in a prepared baking soda pouch with 2 T. of baking soda, zip the bag quickly, and put it on the ground.
I performed this experiment earlier in the day, and my bag burst in about 10 seconds. Unfortunately, my helpers missed the memo about putting the ENTIRE pouch in the liquid mixture, so the first two groups’ mixtures reacted too quickly. The third group’s bags expanded well, but none burst. We believe it was because the water had cooled off while sitting outside.
To make the baking soda pouches, we used ¼ of a square napkin. We folded it into a paper cup (remember those?) by folding in half across the diagonal and then bring the two long corners in to the middle and finish by folding back the other corner on both sides. We added 2 T. baking soda carefully, and then put it in a 2 oz plastic cup to prevent spilling.
We kept these inside to avoid unnecessary moisture absorption until right before.
I assumed that many had watched or heard of the Diet Coke with Mentos experiment, so I opted to use generic sodas instead of brand name to see if there was a difference. I also purchased a variety- three colas, one red, one orange, and one yellow soda, and they were all diet.
Each group had a cola and a color drink to drop mentos into and watch. The first group managed to get Big T and one of the kids soaked pretty good because they didn’t get away quick enough. But we learned that generics don’t shoot as high as brand name, and we learned that the colored sodas don’t shoot as high as the cola. And we also learned that it is tough to take pictures in a dark backyard.
This one surprised all of us on just how cool it was to watch. Before everyone arrived, I filled several water bottles 2/3 full with oil and then added water up to about 2” from the top. Each group chose two bottles and picked a color of food coloring to drop in. They were asked how long it would take for the water to color, and their reactions when it finally happened was quite entertaining. Then, they were to choose whether dropping a ½ tablet, a ¼ tablet, or several tiny pieces of a generic Alka-Seltzer would generate the most bubbles and test their theory.
It was our determination that dropping several tiny pieces created the most bubbles.
Although some of our experiments didn’t work out as planned, we realized that is just part of working in a lab, right? The real success was everyone spending some time together and just hanging out. And we may have found a few new recruits for Turner Up Labs.