Halloween Science Experiments for Kids
Puking Pumpkins, Flying Ghosts and More!
Have your kids watched Emily’s Wonder Lab? This new Netflix original introduces kids to scientific concepts through fun and messy experiments, led by host and MIT grad Emily Calandrelli. Not only do the kids on the show love working with Emily, she was nine months pregnant when filming the show! I didn’t even notice till several episodes in, 1) because I wasn’t giving the show my full attention. But 2) she has so much energy!
Before I get to my main point, check out this ScaryMommy article about the Draw a Scientist experiment. Apparently, 9 times out of ten, when asked to draw a scientist, boys will draw male scientists. Emily posted a picture someone sent her where, when asked to draw a scientist, a boy drew her! She said it was a great reminder that representation matters when it comes to women in STEM.
Anyway. One episode of season 1 covered “Spooky Science”! And earlier this week, a video I was watching brought up puking pumpkins. So I thought it would be fun to research some spooky science experiments! I’ll give details for the ones Joss and I tried below, and then link to some other articles for even more ideas.
- Jack o’ Lantern Pumpkin
- Pumpkin Carving Tools
- 1 c. Baking Soda
- 2+ c. Vinegar
- Green Food Coloring (optional, but do it!)
Step 1. Carve your Jack o’ Lantern. Try to make it look distressed! Make sure you have a wide mouth situated toward the very bottom of the pumpkin so it’s easy for the “puke” to spill out. Although now that I think about it, maybe if I’d made my mouth slightly higher, the reaction would have slowed down just enough for us to see it better.
Step 2. When you’re finished, add 1 cup of baking soda to the bottom of your jack o’ lantern. Add several drops of food coloring.
These pics are in no particular order. But you can see how much fun Joss had with this experiment!
Step 3. Pour the vinegar in slowly. (We added ours quickly, and the reaction was practically over before I could snap a photo! Joss didn’t seem to mind.) Ta-da! A puking pumpkin.
This is just your basic baking soda-and-vinegar reaction. A spooky twist on the classic volcano experiment.
Pumpkin Density Experiment
This one didn’t work as well for us. Probably because I was being stingy with my kitchen ingredients, ha. This experiment lets you and your child discuss the density of different parts of the pumpkin: the stem, seeds and flesh. I used the instructions found here.
- Pumpkin Parts (we used a piece of stem, a seed, flesh without the outer rind on, and flesh with the outer rind on)
- Equal parts corn syrup, water and oil
- Food coloring
- A jar to pour everything in (we used a pickle jar)
Step 1: Decide how much corn syrup, water and oil you want to use. We used 1/3 cup each, but I think the experiment would work better with at least 1/2 cup each. And of course, it will depend on how large your container is. But you want enough so that you can see three distinct layers. Measure out each ingredient in separate containers (we used plastic cups), and add a few drops of food coloring. Make it more “Halloween-y” by using candy corn colors. We tried to do red on the bottom, orange in the middle and uncolored oil (yellow) on top. Fun fact: I did not have corn syrup for this experiment, so tried maple syrup. Which wasn’t as easy to color and probably wasn’t quite thick enough.
Step 2: Slowly pour each liquid into your glass container. Start with the corn syrup, then the water and then the oil. They should form distinct layers.
Step 3: Place your pumpkin pieces in one at a time. Push them to the bottom of the container, then wait to see how far up through the liquid they rise. The less dense pieces will rise to the top. Others may stay suspended in, for example, the water layer. Take this a step further by letting your child make predictions ahead of time.
Even if an experiment doesn’t work out like you were hoping, the kids probably won’t mind! I think Joss ended up pouring the solution on his hair and then into our kiddie pool. After which he splashed around in the oily, orange water. And then promptly was put in the bath!!
Tea Bag Ghosts
This experiment comes straight from Emily’s Wonder Lab – and several other places on the internet.
- Paper Tea Bag
- Fire-proof Surface
Step 1: Cut off the top of the tea bag and dump out the tea.
This tea bag didn’t end up flying. I saw in one blog post that certain brands have stronger bags than others, and those work better. The one that worked for us was the “helps” brand.
Step 2: Decorate your tea bag like a ghost! Optional, but fun!
This is a zombie, not a ghost, by the way 🙂
Step 3: Stand your tea bag up on your heat-proof surface. Use a lighter to light the top of the bag on fire. Watch it burn and fly!
You can tell just how excited I was that this actually worked! Also: I would obviously not recommend doing this inside, as it involves flying fire. But it was really windy outside, and I was 99% certain the fire would burn itself out before it hit anything…
There are SO many Halloween-themed science activities for kids! Some that I’d most be interested in trying are:
- Candy Corn Pumpkin Building Challenge: Build a structure using those delicious candy corn pumpkins and toothpicks
- Sink-or-Float Candy Experiment: Unwrap some of your excess Halloween candy and have your child predict which varieties will sink or float in a container of water. This is a great way to use up some candy without eating it…who wants soggy chocolate?!
- Candy Dissolving Experiment: The kids in Joss’s study group spent about an hour last week making up their own experiments. For the most part, they involved trying to dissolve clay. (Does anyone know how to get smeared wet clay off of a wooden fence?!) So I can almost guarantee your kids will love this open-ended experiment. Basically, if you have any plastic test tubes (or just some cups) lying around, let your kids fill them with different kinds of candy, a little food coloring and water! Shake them up! See what happens!
And finally, here are some more Spooky Science resources:
20+ Must-Try Halloween Science Experiments for Kids from Playdough Potato
25 Spooky Science Activities from Left Brain Craft Brain (I like this one because it divides the activities into themes, such as Candy Experiments, Pumpkin Science Experiments, etc.
Drop a comment if you try any of these activities, or if you have your own spooky science activity to recommend!