Friday, January 30, 2015

Going a Little Mad!Science Experiments and Activities the Whole Family Will Love: Part 1- Glow in the Dark Petri Dishes

When I was a kid, my mother always threw the best birthday parties for my sister and me. And this is before Pinterest, people. She managed to come up with so many fun themes and make it a great experience for both the birthday girl and her friends. Happily, I will fully admit I follow in her footsteps. In a land where many parents rent out a bounce house palace place or host a build a buddy party, I still try to do our boys' parties here at our house.

This year I asked my oldest what he wanted to do for his birthday and he responded with "a science party!" without skipping a beat. Not going to lie, it gave me pause for a moment because I needed to figure out what he meant exactly by that. Turns out, those Youtube clips of Bill Nye the Science Guy and Mr. Wizard really made an impact on him. So, with a tweak here and there, the Mad Scientist party was born.

My husband and I first started to pull together ideas of different things to do with the kids. Some, we were able to just come up with on our own, other activities were discovered while hunting down science activities for kids on Pinterest. Our main goal was to make sure they were things you could do with every day items you could find in the house, for the most part. I will admit a couple ideas did involve needing specific supplies we had to get from Amazon, but it was totally worth it in the long run.

So, I plan on creating a few posts to cover the fun activities we did and the prep work to get ready for it as a series for parents out there interested in doing the same!

I'm starting off with the biggest hit of the party and a super fun favor for our little guests at the end...

Activity #1- Make Your Own Edible Petri Dish

Yes, I know that as an adult, you are aware of the traditional use of Petri dishes, but in this case, we went a little more kid friendly and made some that the kids could create and eat. It was ridiculously easy, too.

First thing you will need are some cheap plastic Petri dishes. They are easy to find on Amazon and we were able to get a sleeve of 20 for a very good price. Along with those, I managed to find fun colors and shapes of food confetti/sprinkles. Try to get a variety to make it more interesting. The last thing I ordered from Amazon were neon test tube shots in a 15 count, which yes, are technically for an adult beverage purpose, but worked really well as test tubes for the party.  

The next few items you will want to get from your local grocery store. First, get two boxes of berry flavored Jello. You want the color to be blue for this activity. You'll also want to make sure you grab a box of Knox clear gelatin. Finally, grab a bottle of tonic water.

Also, you will want to get a package of white address labels and a couple of black lights, if you don't already have these on hand.

Now, I decided to have some fun and make them so that they glow in the dark, thanks to the quinine in the tonic water. If you do not want to get into doing the black light, just skip the tonic water aspect and prep with just water.

If you do decide to do this experiment make sure you do it first or earlier on so there is time for the Jello to set before the party goers have to leave!!!

The day before the party, get the dishes prepped on a cookie sheet and make sure you have room in your refrigerator for it. They need to be perfectly, or as close to, flat as you can get.

How to:

The Day Before- 1. Heat 1 cup of water up to boiling and then add to one box of the Jello and one packet gelatin in a large glass bowl. Mix until dissolved and carefully add in 1 cup tonic water (or you will get a whole new experiment). Stir the mix until nicely blended and you may have to skim some foam off the top.

2. Using a ladle, carefully add a scoopful to each Petri dish. Do not fill all the way but just give the bottom a nice layer.

3. Once all the dishes are filled, carefully place into your fridge. Do not put the lids on or they will create unnecessary condensation. Check dishes in about an hour. If firm and cool, put plastic wrap over the tray.

4. First using blank white address labels, write the names of the children as "Dr. Soandso" and place a label on the Petri dish top and a test tube. Set the lids aside in a baggy.

5. Fill the neon test tubes with about a tbsp worth of confetti sprinkles. Make sure to put plastic wrap over the tubes and just place them back into their original container for easy storage.

The Day of the Party

1. Have the dishes set out on your "lab" table or area and place the labeled lids on top. Make sure to have the test tubes also in the area ready for use. (Ours are glowing thanks to our black light laboratory.)

2. When guests arrive, have them find their dish and explain that they are going to create their own Petri dish. If you have a black light, show them how their dishes glow! They can then sprinkle the confetti sprinkles onto the Jello in the dishes and put the lid back on top when done. Collect the dishes on the cookie sheet you initially had them on before the party.

3. You will need to take about 5 minutes to prep another box of the same Jello flavor as you did the day before. Again, ladle some Jello into the dishes over the confetti sprinkles. The tricky part here is you will need to lift the lid and replace the lid as you go so you don't confuse the dishes. VERY CAREFULLY, put the dishes back in the fridge to set. Again, it shouldn't take very long at all.

4. Hand out the completed dishes at the end of the party for your little scientists! (You may need to just tape the lids on with some Scotch tape to keep them secure.)

And that is it! Fun, science driven and "super cool" according to the little man of honor. The next post will cover the prep work that went into getting our house ready for the party. Make sure to check back!