I subscribe to a rather humorous number of magazines, one of which, Cookie, is extremely humorous in its own right. Written for a small, urban demographic of well-to-do moms, it's full of tips on taking your kids to Sweden, dressing them in Kenneth Cole, and sporting Tod's or Chanel rain boots yourself when school drop-off time looks like it will be a bit overcast.
Of course, moms who take the kids to Sweden will not be content to merely send the kids to Chuck E. Cheese's for a birthday party. They want something a little more fun, authentic, and possibly educational. Which leads me to the way-cool "Good Chemistry" birthday party idea featured in the April issue, which even families who aren't into Chanel rain boots will enjoy.
We start with the outfits. Cookie recommends handing out safety glasses ($6 from stevespanglerscience.com) and lab coats ($24 with embroidered names from labwear.com). Kids can sip juice from flasks ($3.50 from homesciencetools.com). They can also eat Jell-O made in Petri dishes ($5.50 for 20 from homesciencetools.com). As Cookie explains, "Jell-O is a scientific wonder in itself...gelatin powder is made of long molecule chains. When you add hot water, those chains break. But as the mixture cools, the molecules rebond around pockets of water, resulting in that wiggly consistency."
No lab party is complete without goo and other crazy substances, so Cookie recommends setting up three "experiments." The first involves making snow from polymers that expand in liquid (purchase Insta-Snow Powder from stevespanglerscience.com). You can also make slime -- a non-Newtonian fluid which can behave like both a liquid and a solid -- from the Atomic Shaker Slime kit (also from stevespanlerscience.com). To make test-tube lava lamps, order jumbo test tubes from the same Steve Spangler Science, and fill halfway with water, and halfway with vegetable oil (perhaps squeezed from wash bottles; $2.25 each at homesciencetools.com). Drop in Alka-Seltzer and food coloring and watch what happens.
A little over a year ago on this blog, we discussed the decline of home chemistry sets. Many scientists got their start by blowing things up in their garages, something that -- in this age of liability and worries about crystal meth labs -- is becoming increasingly rare. I'm not saying that you need strong oxidizers to make a good party, and certainly making goo isn't particularly intense as science lessons go. But kids don't get to do much hands-on these days in school, and there's always this idea that science is this strange, slightly dangerous foreign thing. A birthday party like this makes it cool. So kudos to Cookie for sharing the idea.