If you read the first post from the series, you know that we started out our major activities with the glow in the dark Petri dishes. From there we moved into the next black light friendly experiment, the "Growth Agent Mystery Pills." Sure, sounds super fancy, but it's actually ridiculously easy and the kids loved the surprise that comes from it.
First of all, I just used a large Fiji bottle for the growth agent...which is actually just warm water. But have fun with it and label the bottle as "Growth Agent" and suddenly it becomes faaaaar more intriguing. Hindsight, I would have liked to have let some tonic water go flat and then warm it up with the regular water just to add to the glow factor in the black light room. You're also going to want to buy those sponge animal pills/bath toys that are sold at Dollar Tree stores or you can find them online. We got ours from Amazon and it's sort of a crap shoot as to which series you'll get, but since we needed more than a dozen we got two packages and both were fun to see develop, regardless if they were farm animals or ocean creatures. Finally, have some extra paper towels and plastic spoons.
We ended up having the great neon plastic kind of cups to hold the water so there would be something to react to the black light. When it was time to do the experiment, we simply passed out the pills to the kids and had them put the pills in the cups. Then, I went around with the water and added it to the cups for them as spoons were passed out by another parent. Once they had spoon and water, they stirred and dipped, and swirled the pills in the water until the pill casing dissolved and released the sponge animal. Their reactions were great and it was cute hearing them guess what animals were growing in their cups based on what was getting released first from the pills.
That pretty much brought a close to our black light driven experiments and we then moved the crowd back into our living room to work on the next activity, "Marshmallow Molecules." Try to move the crowd to different spots because it helps you prep the next area. While they created, I had a chance to clean up the dinning room and get their sponge animals wrung out and into goody bags, with the help of another parent.
This activity had the kiddos building their own molecules using some very basic food products, marshmallows and dry spaghetti. Again, I put the supplies into different shaped containers and then put the periodic table inspired labels, as I explained in the creating the atmosphere post. Wanting to make it a little more interesting, I made a point to get various sized marshmallows in different shapes and colors. Then just get the cheapest package of spaghetti you can find because you won't be reusing it for anything else. We had the kids break into groups of 2-3 and then they worked on creating their molecules. You will want to give them fixed times to get the stuff to build and then have time to actually build them. We went with 2 minutes to collect the supplies and 5 minutes to see what they would create. The outcome was pretty funny since some kids decided to eat their supplies, others went with a more kabob inspired form, and the rest actually did try to make molecule-like shapes.
Again, we kept the crowd moving, this time into our family room for the great hands on activity. This one was all our own doing and I created the box in question. I'll be giving some step by step basics to create your own. Before I do though, this was a riot and super educational at the same time. Basically, we worked off the whole haunted house activity of feeling mystery items in bowls. To make it more experiment based though, we put these mystery things into cups and then they were hidden away in the "The Tactile Box." We went with 7 different types of foods that you can find in your kitchen and then had two volunteers come up for each food item, feel the item, and then describe it in two words to the rest of the group. We kept a poster up to write down the descriptive words and the rest tried to guess what the volunteers felt. It was so much fun, and the guesses were spot on for some and way off for others. As for what they felt, we went with these items; jello, peeled frozen grapes, frozen banana slices, oatmeal flakes, sugar, Cheerios, and Goldfish. Really though, you can pick whatever you want, just make sure you have a variety of textures working for you.
How to make your Tactile Box
1. Get a medium size box and you can cover the exterior with some fun wrapping paper or even just a plain black plastic garbage bag. I decided to go with a sign to name the box and used this awesome black bubble wrap we got in a shipment one day.
2. Using duct tape and cheap plastic cups, tape the number of cups you need to the inside bottom of the box.
3. Taking the same number of cups to what you have taped into the bottom of your box, cut up a black plastic bag into strips that measure roughly 20" long and about 2" wider than the widest part of your cups. Take the duct tape and tape the plastic around the cup to create a sleeve. The plastic should overlap at the edges so you don't have to worry about taping it together. These cups will be filled with the food items and will nest in the cups you taped to the box bottom. Just fold the sleeves down until you are ready to put them in to make filling them up easier.
4. For the top of the box you will want to take 3 strips of black plastic garbage bags, or something as nicely opaque, and cut them to work evenly across the length of the box. Make sure to tape the edges firmly at the ends to the edge of the box. Then, cut two strips to fit width wise across the box but make sure there is some space between the strips to create what looks almost like a grid. Tape firmly again, and now you will have the ability to stick your cups in and just have the sleeves sticking out, as shown in the picture above.
5. Fill up the sleeve cups with your items of choice a little bit before the start of the party. Any cold items can be kept in the fridge in the sleeve cups and then quickly placed where you want them in the box before the activity. Just tuck the sleeve cups into the box cups by working them between the criss-cross of plastic over the top of the box.
6. Have the kids come up and stick their arms down the sleeves and then try to describe what they are feeling. The slimier and gooey stuff was certainly more entertaining just by nature, but everything got the kids thinking :)
Finally, we worked our way to the kitchen where we already had the "Kitchen Friendly" experiments ready to go. Everything we used were things you would find in the kitchen or bathroom of a regular home. You are going to need to make sure there is a sink nearby since some of these do have spill over qualities and hand washing needs. I also made sure to use a deep plastic tray to help curb in any accidental spills. Here they are in no particular order:
1. The Go To, Baking Soda and Vinegar, but with a Twist. Supplies- 1/4 cup baking soda in a bowl, 1 cup vinegar in a large clear vase or wide mouth bottle, fine craft glitter in a dark color, a funnel. First mix the glitter and baking soda together. Then, place funnel in wide mouth bottle or vase and pour the baking soda mix into the vinegar. Watching the combustive reaction with the glitter helps to show off how everything moves and grows up and out of the container. (I was a bit skeptical about the glitter part, but glad we went with it. It totally increases the wow factor.)
2. Oil and Water Experiment in Two Parts. Supplies- a small empty kids bottle of water filled with cooking oil and a few drops of darker food coloring like red or orange, a regular size bottle of Smart Water filled halfway up with water, 2 Alka Seltzer tabs, a funnel. First, you will need to shake the oil to mix the food coloring into it. This part helps show off the separation a little better than just regular oil and water. Then using the funnel add the oil to the tall Smart Water bottle. Place the cap on the larger bottle and shake the contents together. Show the kids how the water and oil just don't want to mix together no matter how much they are shaken together. Then take it a step further by adding the two tabs of Alka Seltzer to the mix and suddenly it acts like you own lava lamp!
3. Blow up a Balloon without Helium or Your Lungs. Supplies- small empty kid size water bottle filled with some water on the bottom, 2 tbsps of lemon juice, 2 tbsps of baking soda, a latex balloon stretched out a head of time, funnel. First add the lemon juice to the water using the funnel. Then keeping the funnel on the bottle add in the baking soda, remove the funnel and quickly place the balloon over the mouth of the bottle. You'll see the reaction begin to fill the balloon up. For a large reaction, you can use more lemon juice and baking soda.
4. Newtonian Fluid. Supplies- 1 cup cornstarch, 1 1/2 cups of water with a few drops of food color added to it, pie dish, spatula. Slowly mix the water into the cornstarch in the pie dish. Show the kids how as you add water it changes the structure of the mix. When you reach the point where you press the cornstarch mix and it becomes solid, stop adding in water. Then let the kids touch and feel how it can be like a liquid if slowly handled or become more like a solid when you slap the top or try to poke it quickly.
5. Invisible Ink. Supplies- Plain white paper, cotton swabs, a quarter cup of grape juice, paint brush, and an equal part mix of baking soda and water, hair dryer. Get some volunteers to help out with this ahead of time. Either older siblings, or parents who decided to stay and watch are good assistants to put to use. Have them dip the cotton swabs into the baking soda mix and write a message on the paper without the other people watching. You will want to just put a pen dot on the top of the paper so you know which is the right side. Take the hair dryer and dry the messages so that you cannot see any wet sections on the paper. Then, in front of the group, take the grape juice and with the paint brush, spread it over the right side of the paper. Suddenly, what was invisible becomes completely visible!
Our last activity we just came up with for something different. We did a raffle for the kids. Their tickets were attached to their clip boards and then they just had to put the one side of their tickets in the box when they arrived at party. At the end, after the Sundae Bar, we had the kids sit down and we pulled the winners. We went with some National Geographic books for grand prizes and a couple of cool light up balls as runners up. You can opt to not do this at all, or choose items that you would like to be the prizes.
And that's it!! If you have any questions or need something clarified, feel free to contact me. We had a blast doing this, and we may even try doing it again for our younger guy when he's a little older.