Backyard science and putting my money where my mouth is

Fed up of hosting Ben 10 parties for Ishaan (we did three, back to back!) we decided on a science experiment type party for his 6th birthday, as he was into making potions/stink bombs/anything suitably gross. He was thrilled to say the least. So this is what we did.

the invite - click for details

topped up with candy chips

We printed out the home-made invites, rolled them into plastic test tubes and mailed them in brown paper envelopes to the invitees. I was just not able to find suitable test tubes – until I checked with a doctor friend who happily ordered packets of them for me (she co-incidentally heads a lab!) from her regular supplier. In India, i don’t think anything is impossible. You can always find somebody who can help you. Thats what I love about this country 🙂

the venue makes my life easy

the science corner. covered the table with a plastic tablecloth (in lovely gingham checks), that comes in a roll. cheap and best.

My in-laws beautiful (if i may say so myself) garden, a few hired tables and plastic chairs, some balloons – and the venue was sorted. The kids had some time to horse around till almost everyone had arrived and then the fun began. My husband Rohaan and I sent a lot of time researching the net, checking books and talking about the possible experiments. These are the (easiest) ones we decided on:

1. Secret Code Messages – we gave the children some lime juice in plastic cups (tell them it’s not to drink!), a brush each and A4 sized white paper. They did their own thing – codes, messages, drawings – and then we dipped each paper into a big bowl of water with a few drops of iodine in it (iodine is easily available in any pharmacy).  The message reveals itself in a white neonish kind of finish and is quite cool. We needed to do a few more per child, so was glad there was extra paper on hand. We then wrote each child’s names on a post-it and stapled it to their final (soaking) masterpiece and then hung them all out to dry. I put each child’s message into their goody bag at the end of the party – and I was surprised by the fact that every one of them asked for their papers back. Thank god we kept them safe!

busy working on their secret messages...

2. Static Electricity – This was Rohaan’s idea, and needed very little work. We handed out plastic rulers to the kids, got them to shred up newspaper into small bits and then explained to them (somewhat) about the concept of static electricity. They rubbed the rulers on their hair and then tried to pick up the pieces of paper with their rulers. I wish I had taken pictures of all that hair-rubbing. It was the cutest!

3. Molecules – I handed out pictures of the structure of a molecule from about.com and gave each child a dozen jujubes and some toothpicks to replicate them. Big hit, as all the jujubes vanished into their mouths shortly after.

making molecules

here they are in all their glory

4. Air pressure – I wanted the children to have a break from all the sitting down, and also needed to set up the area for the volcano experiment. So we did two experiments away from the table. My brother (dressed in a lab assistant’s coat to add authenticity), showed the children the water in a glass trick. He poured water into a glass, covered it with a card and quickly turned it upside down. Voila – the water does not rush out as expected. All in all it’s quite cool. He needed to do this a few times to satisfy this demanding crowd.

the water and card trick

and thats how you do it!

5. Stink Bomb – We cheated here. The stink bombs were bought in a cheap, trick shop in Bangkok and we set them off in another part of the garden. Again, a good excuse to have the kids run around a bit. They normally stink up the place quite satisfactorily, but to our bad luck, they refused to go off properly. However the process of finding a new spot to detonate them was an activity in itself. No one complained.

6. Volcano – Our grand finale. My dearest Uncle Naeem – who made the most adorable scientist ever – was in charge here. And he pulled it off beautifully. I had toyed with the idea of grouping the little guests into fives, and getting each lot to make a volcano. Thank god we did just one as it would have taken too long. All these activities themselves took about an hour to complete. Which was just right for the boys. Read here for how to make a volcano.

the in-house Chief Scientist

making the volcano

and the volcano erupts...

and erupts some more.

Experiments over, we cut the cake and the kids sat at the table and ate mini-burgers, fries and noodles. This was the first time I had asked for the kids to be dropped off sans their moms and I have to say the children behaved brilliantly and were no trouble at all. There was no fuss at lunch. There was no fuss on the whole.

It’s also convenient to set up a table for the children to do their activities at, as it nicely doubles up as a place to eat later – no running around and trying to get them to finish their food.If you do not have access to a lawn or garden area to accomodate a table, think out of the box. Maybe a spacious balcony (or two) could hold a decent sized table/s. Be careful of chairs in a balcony though, as you want to avoid any mishaps. A low table is a good option here (and can be easily hired), as the kids can then sit on the floor and work.

Or if you live in a smallish apartment complex and have friendly neighbours – request them to park their cars outside for the duration of the party , clean up the basement (we have so much cheap help in India) –  and use it!

Themes like art and craft, baking, cooking or pottery would be easy to do on a nice long table. You could also make this area prettier by tying balloons to the chairs, making name tags for each child or putting a fun centerpiece on the table. One mother I know, made a cabbage ‘arrangement’ – she pierced a small cabbage with a whole lot of toothpicks, where each humble toothpick had been turned into a small skewer of colourful gummy bears or jujubes.

I cannot end without mentioning the juice. We made 3 jugs of tang and added edible food colour – green, blue and red to each jug. This was then poured into sterilised plastic test-tubes and offered to the little scientists. Major success, as the kids freaked out trying all the colours. The test-tubes were taken home as souvenirs.

the cake

the test tubes came in their own little stand

the kids couldn't get enough of the juice...

becoz juice-in-a-test-tube tastes even better!

The return present consisted of some candy, their secret message, a print-out of the molecule structure, the plastic ruler they had used earlier and a bottle of store-bought slime.

I loved planning this party and with the help of my friend and family (thank you!) I think we pulled it off. Now, instead of dreading the next birthday, I am looking forward to it. It’s a nice feeling 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Backyard science and putting my money where my mouth is

  1. Hey Pix,

    I finally found some time and was going through your blog and must say…..I am so’ooo impressed !! I just read about your lovely party idea for Ishaan and loved it. I am going to borrow lots of these ideas for the little ones in my class too !! Hats off to you guys for coming up with something so different yet so fun.

  2. Lovely ideas! You really thought out of the box for this one 🙂 The kids would have really enjoyed everything AND learnt something as well! What more can a mom ask for? 🙂

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