Mix a cup of cornstarch and around half a cup of water together for instant Halloween fun! Cornstarch and water mix together to form a strange concoction, called a shear-thickening fluid, that behaves like a solid when you agitate it, but behaves like a liquid when you let it sit still.
To make your Goblin Goo more Halloween-y, add a drop of food coloring, but you’ll risk staining hands and other surfaces. You can experiment with adding more water or cornstarch to get your goo to the consistency of thick syrup.
The molecules in your mixture are sort of like long ropes. When you leave them alone, or move them slowly, they can slide past each other. However, if you squeeze them, stir them or roll them around in your hands, the ropey molecules look and feel more like a solid. Materials like cornstarch goo are known as non-Newtonian fluids, since they don’t have the normal properties of either a liquid or a solid.
Since I already think that science is pretty fun, but know that the very thought of doing an experiment can be daunting for many parents, I decided to make a short list of tips for making at-home science even more fun for everyone involved.
1. Choose a project you have the time and energy for. Many science experiments, like the ones in my book, only take five or ten minutes and don’t even require a trip to the store. You can have a paper bag volcano “erupting” in 15 minutes, but on a rainy day, you may be willing to commit to a more involved experiment, like growing bacteria on homemade petri plates. It’s like making dinner. Some nights you create a gourmet feast, and other nights you slap together grilled cheese sandwiches, but even grilled cheese hits the spot!
2. Let the kids do everything that they can safely do by themselves. They should be the ones measuring, mixing and experimenting. Don’t worry if they spill a little, or the measurements aren’t perfect! They’re EXPERIMENTING!
3. If they want try something that’s not in the instructions, let them!!! As long as it’s safe, let them test their ideas. Who cares if it doesn’t work? Mistakes, trial and error are how we learn, and this is the great thing about doing science at home. Kids can substitute orange juice for milk, or put cornstarch goo in a balloon in the freezer. They’re exploring the world and learning to be creative thinkers.
4. Have kids clean up their mess. This makes science more fun for parents and will make them more likely to allow future experimentation. Remember, back yards and driveways make great science labs, and can be sprayed off with a hose!
A chemical reaction happens when you mix two or more things together to make something new.
Mixing sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and acetic acid (vinegar) together produces carbon dioxide gas bubbles, which can make gummy worms which have been cut into very thin strips squirm and float! My kids created this experiment a few years ago! Can you think of an experiment you could do with candy?
To make Frankenworms:
1. Cut gummy worms into skinny, skinny long strips (may require adult assistance.)
2. Soak the worms in a bowl of water with a few tablespoons of baking soda mixed in for around 20-30 minutes.
3. Drop the baking-soda infused worms into a large, clear glass or jar full of white vinegar and watch them come to “life.”
These creepy eggs are a great science project and an awesome Halloween centerpiece! All you need are eggs, vinegar, green food coloring and corn syrup to dissolve the shells and shrivel the eggs via osmosis!
Click herefor written directions on how to make the eggs, and for a little more about the science behind the fun!
What could be more fun than creating your own green slime ? It’s easy to synthesize your own green goo using only Elmer’s glue (the non-washable kind), Borax (found in the laundry detergent section of Target and some grocery stores), green food coloring and water.
Mix together about 1/3 cup glue and 1/3 cup water with a spoon or Popsicle stick. These measurements don’t have to be exact. Add a few drops of green food coloring and stir.
To make the Borax solution, add around a cup of water to a jar. To the water, add about a Tablespoon of Borax. Shake or stir to dissolve as much of the Borax as possible. You’re making a saturated solution, so it may not all dissolve!
Here’s the fun part: Add a teaspoon at a time of the Borax solution to the glue/water mix. After each addition, stir the mixture. You’ll see long strings begin to form and stick together. Keep adding Borax until the mixture doesn’t feel sticky. It will form a shiny playdough-like substance. If you add too much Borax solution, it will feel wet, but you should be able to squish it around in your hands to absorb the extra water! The slime isn’t toxic, but Borax is soap, so don’t eat it!
What happens? Mixing Elmer’s glue with water forms a substance called a polymer, which is a long chain of molecules, sort of like a string of pearls. (A molecule is the smallest amount of a specific chemical substance that can exist alone, like H2O, a single water molecule). The polymer formed by water and glue is called polyvinyl acetate.
The Borax solution (sodium tetraborate) is a cross-linking substance that makes the polymer chains stick together. As more and more chains stick together, they can’t move around and the goo gets thicker and thicker. Eventually, all the chains are bound together and no more Borax solution can be incorporated.
You can store the slime in plastic bags. If you want to make a larger batch, just remember to mix equal amounts of glue and water and then add as much Borax solution as needed.
I’m going to post a spooky experiment every few days from now until Oct.31st. They’re great for school or home Halloween parties, and some even make groovy Halloween Decorations!
This bloody candy experiment takes a few weeks , but is worth the wait! If you start soon, you’ll have gorgeously gruesome rock candy, dripping with sugary fake blood, in time for Halloween.
This experiment requires adult supervision for boiling and handling the hot sugar syrup. Once it’s cooled down, kids can take over.
To make 12-15 sticks, you’ll need the following:
-2 and 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
-cake pop sticks or wooden skewers
-red food coloring
Dip one end of cake-pop sticks or wooden skewers in water and then roll them in granulated white sugar. The sugar should cover 2-3 inches of the stick. Let them dry completely. These are the seeds for the sugar crystal growth.
Boil 2 cups water and 5 cups sugar until sugar is dissolved as much as possible. It should look like syrup. Once it cools, this syrup is your supersaturated sugar solution.
Let syrup sit until it is no longer hot and pour into a large glass jar or deep bowl.
When syrup is completely cool, set the sugary end of the sugar-seeded cake pops or skewers into the syrup, evenly spaced in the jar. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let them sit for about a week. Gently move the sticks around occasionally, so they don’t stick to each other and the crystals in the bottom of the glass. If the glass container gets too full of crystals, pour the syrup into a new container and move your stick into the cleaner syrup to grow more crystals.
When the rock candy is done, pull them from the syrup and let them dry. Save the syrup.
To serve, pour a few cm of your sugar syrup into the bottom of a pretty glass and add a few drops of red food coloring. You can even add a little flavoring to the syrup (like cherry extract.) Stir.
Put your rock candy, handle side up, into the glass. Be sure to give your guests napkins, so they don’t drip “blood” all over the house!
How do Crystal Grow?
Like bricks in a wall, crystals are solids formed by a network of repeating patterns of molecules. Instead of the mortar that holds brick together, the atoms and molecules are connected by atomic bonds.
Crystals that share the same chemical composition can be big or small, but the molecules always come together to form the same shape. Table sugar, or sucrose, is made up of a molecule composed of two sugars, glucose and fructose. Crystals formed by sucrose are hexagonal (six-sided) prisms, slanted at the ends.
The crystals on your rock candy sticks grow from the “seeds” of the sugar you rolled on the stick before you put them in the syrup.
My book, “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids,”is finally out, and over Labor Day weekend, I traveled to Dragon Con in Atlanta to talk about it and do science with the kids at the convention. At the convention, I got to meet lots of fantastic scientists, science writers, science entertainers and science enthusiasts. One of them was the amazing Paul Zaloom, of “Beakman’s World.” I checked out his “Beakman Live” show and learned some awesome new experiments.
I tried one of them out this morning. Check it out, and then try it out! All you need is a playing card, a glass and some water. The science explanation is in the video.
Be sure to catch some episodes of Beakman’s World online!
Last week, the kids and I saw a bright red bird with a blue head. Baffled, I pulled out my favorite bird identification app:Merlin Bird ID, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The app is free, available on the App Store and Google play, and much of the data in the app has been collected by citizen scientists, like you and me!
To use the app, you simply answer 5 simple questions about the bird you see and the app draws on a wealth of data to help you identify the bird. It comes up with a list of likely matches, and you choose the bird you’re looking at to learn more about it, and even listen to a recording of its song.
Normally, we can quickly identify the bird we’re stalking using the app, but the blue-headed red bird was tricky, so we went online to do more research. Merlin Bird ID suggested that it might be a cardinal, so we did a search for blue headed cardinals and discovered that we’d seen a bald-headed cardinal. It seems that some cardinals and blue jays molt all their head feathers at once, leaving their bluish skin exposed.