Family Fun: Parties

Mad for Science!

By
From the September 2010 edition
Who says science can't be entertaining? Certainly not 6-year-old birthday boy Alex Byers. His parents, Kim and Steve, turned their Sunbury backyard into a laboratory this fall and cooked up a memorable birthday party!

From monogrammed lab coats made by Alex's grandmother to periodic-table cookies, from experiments making snow in a test tube to creating geysers with Mentos and Diet Coke, Alex's special day tested its hypothesis and drew the conclusion that science and birthdays mix spectacularly well!

The Setting:
  • The "laboratory" was in the backyard under a pergola with plenty of room  for spills, oopsies and things that get messy.
  • The "experiment station" (aka dessert table and ice-cream bar) was set up inside the house.

The Itinerary:
  • The invitation said 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., but everyone stayed well beyond!
  • The guests arrived to a sign in the front yard directing them to Alex's Laboratory in the backyard, where another sign stated, "Scan to enter" with a handprint. Not just anyone can enter a restricted area like Alex's Lab!
  • The outdoor experiments wrapped up at about 2:15 p.m. and the children went inside to indulge in the cookies, cupcakes and ice cream.
  • At 2:45 the kids opened gifts and played together the rest of the afternoon.
The Food:
  • Homemade cupcakes embellished with bubbling beakers and periodic-table-of-elements symbols
  • A dessert bar with three ice-cream flavors (vanilla, chocolate and mint) and toppings like Oreos, Snickers, M&Ms, cashews and gummy worms
  • Butter cookies that were decorated like bubbling beakers and elements from the periodic table. These came from Sweet Tooth Cottage in Powell.
  • Beverages like Stewart's Creamy Orange Fountain Drinks embellished with wrappers that said "Warning: May Bubble, Pop & Fizz" and water bottles specially labeled H2O.

The Decorations:
Here's where we have to admit that Kim is a pro. She owns The Celebration Shoppe, a successful online business that creates stationery, party favors and printable decorations.

Printables are templates that you cut and craft yourself. They're economical and allow you to put your own spin on the decor. The 17-item "science collection" includes beverage wrappers, straw slips, cupcake toppers and wrappers, napkin rings, banners for the "Lab" and "Experiment Station" and more.

The dessert table featured a three-tier cake stand and two small shelves filled with science props like plastic test tubes filled with Sprees, Skittles and Lemon Heads (for decoration only since the tubes weren't food safe) and papier-mache books painted in vibrant colors and labeled "Biology," "Chemistry" and "Astronomy."

The Favors:
• Grandmother Montia Jewell made child-size lab coats for each child and monogrammed the pockets with bubbling test tubes and their names. The cost was roughly $12 per coat in materials.
• Goggles embellished with a "Thanks for bubbling over!" tag

The Activities:
Primary color test: Six clear plastic cups were set up - three empty and three one-third filled with water. Red, blue and yellow fizzing tablets were dropped into the water. The children mixed the colored water in the empty cups to make orange, green and purple. Then they poured in a small amount of oil so they could see how water and oil won't mix.

Weather: A scoop of (kid-safe) Insta-Snow was placed inside a large test tube and mixed with water. The "snow" grows so fast it pops out the top.

Buoyancy: Using bowls half-filled with water, the children put 10 paperclips inside one crumbled-up ball of aluminum foil, then added 10 paperclips to the same size sheet of foil that is shaped like a boat. The lesson teaches that with more surface area, the same weighted objects can float, just like large ships on the sea.

Chemical reaction: For the grand finale, dad Steve created a 20-foot geyser of Mentos and Diet Coke!

For those who prefer to leave the experiments to the pros, COSI offers group birthday parties for ages 3 to 5 or ages 6 to 11. For 15 children and 15 adults, the cost starts at $325 plus parking.

Where Things Came From:
  • Invitations, thank-you cards, plates, napkins and printable decorations from Kim's business, The Celebration Shoppe, at thecelebrationshoppe.com. Invitations cost $22 for the first eight and 95 cents each thereafter. Thank-you cards are $8.50 for the first eight and 50 cents each thereafter. The "science collection" of printable templates range from $2 to $3.50 each or $34.50 for the 17-item collection.
  • Hand-decorated butter cookies from Sweet Tooth Cottage, 614-361-6166, sweettoothcottage.com. Pricing starts at $26 per box of 14 cookies, if picked up at their location in Powell.
  • Plastic test tubes from Oriental Trading Company, $15 for a set of four racks, orientaltrading.com
  • Papier-mache books from JoAnn Fabric and Craft Store for $4 each and paint for 59 cents per bottle.
  • From the Steve Spangler Science website, stevespanglerscience.com: Red, blue and yellow fizzing tablets (100 for $5), Insta-Snow ($5), test tubes ($6 for a rack of six), Mentos geyser tube ($5), goggles ($3 each).
Helpful Hint from Hostess Kim Byers: "The science experiments were moderated by my friend, Tammy Arnold, who is a teacher. Whether or not you have a teacher available, I recommend having someone else lead the experiments. As the host you still have so many other duties, plus it allows you to enjoy watching the children. Tammy explained each experiment and gave them fun facts throughout the process."