Things that move, bubble and glow seemingly on their own are perfect for bringing some spooky fun home this Halloween. We put together a list of physical science demonstrations and activities you can do with easy-to-find materials to spark the wonder of what "magic" (or science) is behind the phenomenon.
From glowing slime to designing mazes, these activities are sure to keep your child asking, wondering, laughing and embracing the spookiness of the season, all while practicing what a scientist does best: asking questions and finding solutions.
Glitter-glue slime, glowing slime, edible slime, magnetic slime—there are countless creative renditions of this classic chemistry activity. This activity lists steps for slime that glows (using glow-in-the-dark glue). Add some plastic spiders, and you've made this anytime classic perfect for Halloween!
Once you've made the slime, try some experiments: How does temperature affect the stretchiness of the slime? How do the ingredients affect the texture of the slime? How long will the slime last if you leave it in a closed container versus an open container? What types of light exposure (sunlight vs. artificial light) help the slime glow better?
Static Electricity Ghosts and Bats
The science behind the "ghosts" in this activity is sure to make your hair stand on end! All you need here is a balloon, some tissue paper, tape and scissors. Design ghosts and bats in the tissue paper and carefully cut them out. Tape them to your table top, blow up the balloon, and with a little bit of static charge (rub the blown-up balloon on your hair or a sweater) the ghosts and bats will "dance" right up from the table.
To engage in the science behind the ghoulish magic, try picking up other items with the balloon or see if rubbing the balloon on a different material (like a couch or the floor) produces the same results with your tissue paper ghosts and bats!
Pumpkin Brush Bot
This activity demands a bit more when it comes to prep and production, but the end result will bring a smile to everyone in the family's face. What screams "Halloween" more than a self-propelled, dancing pumpkin?
You will need a motor, a toothbrush and a decorative styrofoam pumpkin, along with the tools to cut and adhere the motor and toothbrush (be sure to follow the steps laid out by Left Brain Craft Brain).
The science behind the electrical circuit and finding the best way to balance the pumpkin on the brush head will naturally result in questions for your young scientist or engineer to figure out as you build the "bot" together.
The Magic Egg (or Balloon) in a Bottle Trick
Moving away from dancing ghosts, bats and pumpkins, this activity will leave your child speechless as an egg is mysteriously pushed into a bottle! Whether you have seen this before or not, it's worth an at-home try with your young, observant scientist. Steve Spangler demonstrates how the same phenomenon can be observed using a hard-boiled egg and a milk bottle, as can be done with a water balloon and a juice bottle.
Along with the above mentioned, you will need some kindling and a match to create the necessary conditions for this investigation. You'll likely want to observe it multiple times (so boil multiple eggs or prepare several balloons ahead of time), as the questions your child will ask about how and why it happens are likely to demand other trials and attempts.
To get at what is really going on, they'll have to think about what's outside of the bottle as much as what is inside of the bottle! See Spangler's science videos for more description.
Explosive Chemical Reactions
Oftentimes the science wow-factor for kids comes with getting to observe something boil over or blow up! Common at-home explosion activities include mixing baking soda and vinegar, or putting Mentos candies into a Diet Coke bottle. In this activity outlined by Little Bins for Little Hands, you and your child will work together to prepare a bubbling, boiling "witches brew" using nothing more than hydrogen peroxide, water, soap, food coloring (optional) and yeast.
As explained in the provided link, the chemical reaction between the yeast and the hydrogen peroxide (at low, over-the-counter concentration) is not immediate. However, spending the time to discuss and observe is a part of the investigation—some things take time!
Fun ways to experiment with this include trying different concentrations of hydrogen peroxide (higher concentrations will have more violent, immediate reactions that will create significantly more heat—take extreme care if working with high concentrations of peroxide), trying warmer/ cooler water and trying different colors or soaps across multiple containers.
Amazing Maze Building
You've probably heard of or even attempted a corn maze at a pumpkin patch, but have you and your child ever considered making one of your own? Crafty in nature, this project has endless possibilities all while helping your child grow and develop their critical thinking, coordination and engineering/design skills.
The provided link suggests using paper plates and straws, but a maze can be built out of pretty much anything. Get lost in an afternoon of maze building and solving together to see what works, what doesn't work and what is extra challenging.
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