Plan mad scientist parties with ideas from Web sites

By Mariah Smith Extension Center for Technology Outreach

Halloween is fast upon us, and many parents are looking for fun party alternatives to the scary side of this holiday.

An old Scottish saying for this time of year is, ³From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!² My personal dislike for ³things that go bump² could go back to a dark night during my childhood when sounds outside my bedroom door sent my imagination into overdrive. A family of owls had found its way into the attic and down the stairs. They were having a merry old time on our hallway rocking chair and prancing up and down the staircase. The truly traumatic aspect for me was watching my father chase some very unhappy owls out with a broom.

While scary themes are out for me, I do like to make a mess, especially a big exploding, colorful, fizzy mess. This Halloween, consider hosting a mad scientist party for those who just can¹t handle witches and goblins. Mad scientist parties are a ton of fun. Kids get to dress up, and they can conduct scientific experiments, eat lots of sweet treats and have fun with science.

Begin your mad scientist party with the appropriate decorations and costumes. Pinterest is a great place to find decoration ideas, and this board has several neat ideas: http://tinyurl.com/madscientistdecor. Lab coats are a must, but all you have to do is take an old white T-shirt and cut it up the middle to make an experiment-worthy coat. Fill up some clear glass jars or beakers with colored water and set them around, too.

Food is always critical to the success of any party, and the mad scientist punch from Taste of Home — http://tinyurl.com/madscientistpunch — is a refreshing treat. Gumdrops can become molecules: http://tinyurl.com/gumdropmolecule. Pudding can be served in Petri dishes. Test tubes can hold various colors of jelly beans, and cheese puffs can become atomic particles. If you are an overachiever, you can purchase the science cookie cutter set at http://www.sciencecookiecutters.com/ and make your own flask, beaker, atom and test-tube cookies.

Now that you have decorations and food well in hand, the most important thing is having the right experiments. When it comes to entertaining children, hands-on messiness is best. Making slime is a tried and true favorite, and a recipe is at http://tinyurl.com/makeoobleck. Other crowd pleasers include the Mentos explosion at http://tinyurl.com/mentosexplosion. (A word to the wise: Diet Coke is a lot less sticky than regular Coke.)

If you can find film canisters, you can make film-canister rockets following the directions at http://tinyurl.com/filmrocket. If you can¹t find film canisters, you can buy them from various science supply stores. All you need to make lava lamps are common ingredients found around the house: http://tinyurl.com/saltlavalamp. This recipe calls for salt, but I use a fourth of a tablet of Alka-Seltzer at a time instead of salt. If you put the whole tablet in, bad things happen to the bottle.

Elephant toothpaste is also a fun experiment: http://tinyurl.com/makeelephanttoothpaste. The ³child-safe² recipe calls for 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, which makes a decent explosion, but for the really big one, you need 30 percent hydrogen peroxide and adult supervision. Other fun activities can be found at http://www.looseinthelab.com.

This Halloween, remember that the scariest things just might be what you create yourself.