by Linda Dunnavant
Most kids find the idea of science thrilling. It conjures up images of potions, explosions, and top-secret laboratories. When I asked my son what kind of birthday party he wanted this year, he eagerly exclaimed, “A science party!” That night, I was taken aback when I Googled science birthday party ideas. Many of the suggestions seemed far too adult-led and complicated—not to mention expensive!
Kids’ parties can be the bane of our existence as parents; many of us feel pressured to deliver a Pinterest-worthy party every year. I would like to suggest some relatively low stress, inexpensive, and FUN ideas for a science party. They can be done for a child’s birthday, but all can easily be adapted for a classroom celebration. All these suggestions aren’t intended to be done at a single party. Instead, pick and choose the activities that would appeal to your child and party guests based on their ages, personal interests, etc.
Science Party Invitations
The invitation sets the stage for your party and gets your guests excited about attending. I personally prefer to send electronic invitations rather than printed ones because I believe people are more likely to RSVP when they only have to click a button. Your guests will get automatic email reminders as the date approaches and, best of all, electronic invitations are free! Evite has a great free template for a science-themed party.
If you’d like to go the old-fashioned paper route, consider this super cute free printable invitation from PBS.
Science Party Decorations
I think it is always best to pick only a few decorating items, but choose those that will make a big impact. One inexpensive and fun idea is cut plastic tablecloths into “splatter” shapes and put them on tables and even on the walls. It will look like slime has been splattered everywhere, and it will let your guests know that they are in for a messy time!
Another fun idea is to have your guests “scan their hand” before they enter your science lab party. All you need to do is print a hand outline on a sheet of paper with the words Scan Hand to Enter. A quick search online will supply you with loads of ideas!
Science Party Costumes
Scientist costumes for the kids don’t need to be expensive or complicated. Here is an adorable lab coat design that requires nothing but white t-shirts and a black fabric marker. If you’d prefer a waterproof lab coat, use a permanent market to draw the same template on white garbage bags. (Don’t forget to cut out holes for the head and the arms!)
If you are feeling especially adventurous, why not dress up like a mad scientist yourself? All you need is a white coat, a silly wig, and some goofy glasses. Your child will be amazed if they are under age 6, and more likely totally embarrassed if they are older. (Either way, completely worth it in my book.)
Science Party Activities
No matter which activities you choose to do at your party, the Science Fun Birthday Pack is a great starting point. It includes ‘Happy Birthday’ Talking Tapes with cups, a pack of Colorflame Candles that burn in five different colors, ‘Happy Birthday’ Self-Inflating Balloons, and a set of Science Cookie Cutters to help you prepare a special treat.
Here are some other easy, kid-friendly science party ideas:
1: Lego Roof Materials Investigation
If your house is anything like mine, you probably have a lot of LEGO bricks lying around. You know all those LEGO sets that have been assembled and disassembled and are now sitting in a huge box? This is the perfect engineering activity to put them to use! Kids can build LEGO houses and then build roofs using materials from outside (sticks, grass, basically anything they can think of). They can use a water sprayer or a spray bottle with tinted blue water to test their structures. I like this activity because it encourages critical thinking, can be done independently or in a group, and most importantly, because it’s a lot of fun.
2: Make Slime
There are tons of slime recipes out there, but I really like the simplicity and affordability of Educational Innovations’ Slime-Making Kit. If your party is going to be indoors or at night, try the Glowing Slime Kit. Each kit contains the ingredients needed to create the slime, a mixing container, a mixing stick, and complete instructions. Depending on the age of your partygoers, you can either have them assist with making slime, or you can have it ready for them to play with when the party begins. If your child is REALLY into slime, the Classroom Slime Kit will provide you with buckets of the stuff!
3: Dinosaur Eggs Excavation
If your child is a dinosaur lover, this is the activity for you! Freeze your frozen “dinosaur eggs” a few days ahead of time (see instructions below) to make sure they have enough time to properly set up.
At the party, set up a table with a plastic tray for each child. Each tray should include a cup of lukewarm water and an eye dropper. You might want to place a bucket of water in the middle of the table in case kids need to refill their cups. Kids will fill up the eye droppers and squeeze water onto their eggs until they are able to “excavate” the dinosaurs. The tiny dinosaur will be theirs to keep and will no doubt encourage imaginative play, especially among the younger children.
While they are excavating, you might want to ask the party guests some questions to determine how much they know about fossils and real-world excavations. Who knows, you might inspire a future paleontologist!
How to make frozen dinosaur eggs:
- Blow up a balloon and hold it for 30 seconds to stretch it out.
- Stretch open the mouth of the balloon and stuff a dinosaur inside. (This may require some practice.)
- Add water to the balloon until it reaches the desire “egg” shape. You can color the water if you like.
- Tie a knot in the balloon.
- Stick the balloons in the freezer.
- Once they are fully frozen, cut off the knot and peel off the balloon.
4: Build a Toothpick Tower
Kids of all ages love to see how tall a tower they can build. This classic STEM activity is usually done with marshmallows, but chunks of apples provide more structure (and health benefits for those kiddos who will inevitably eat some). UCLA’s Society of Women Engineers has excellent advice (although they use marshmallows). The best thing about this activity is that it takes so little preparation, and it allows your young scientists an open-ended exploration. Talk about variables! Put out a bowl of apple cubes, some toothpicks, paper plates to build on, and you are all set! To add more color, try different varieties of apples, or include some carrot slices.
5: Mentos® and Diet Coke® Explosion
The classic Mentos® and Diet Coke® Explosion (courtesy of Scientific American) is the perfect way to end your party. Neither kids nor adults can resist the excitement of watching a soda geyser shoot up into the air! All you have to do is release a sleeve of Mentos® into a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke®. The key is to accurately and quickly release the Mentos® into the bottle. Older children can do this themselves, but otherwise an adult should do it. Make sure everyone is standing back and wearing safety glasses. Be sure to do this outdoors!
Science Party Food
1: Science Cookies
Make cookies in the shape of beakers, flasks, test tubes, and atoms using the Science Cookie Cutters that can be purchased on their own, or as part of the Science Fun Birthday Pack. The set includes a recipe for delicious and easy sugar cookies that you can bake with your birthday girl or boy the night before the party. If you are feeling really adventurous, you can set icing and sprinkles out at the party and have your guests decorate their own cookies.
2: Solar Oven S’mores
NASA has a great tutorial for how to build your own solar oven and roast delicious solar s’mores. Build the solar oven ahead of time, and remember to preheat it for at least 30 minutes before your guests arrive. Your guests should assemble their s’mores at the beginning of the party, so their treats will be ready to eat before the kids go home. Be sure to only try this one on a sunny, warm day!
** Note that unlike most recipes, these s’mores have the marshmallow UNDER the chocolate. That’s because it takes the marshmallow longer to melt in the solar oven than the chocolate.
3: Make Your Own Molecules
All you have to do to let kids “make their own molecules” is to set out a variety of small fruits, marshmallows, and toothpicks. How fun and delicious!
4: Chocolate Covered Insects
Kids will go WILD over these Chocolate Covered Insects. Some say they taste like chocolate covered popcorn. Let kids try them for themselves, if they are feeling brave enough!
As an added bonus, hand out these cute “I Ate a Bug Today!” stickers to your bold, bug-eating partygoers.
I like to keep party favors simple. Since many parents do not like their kids being sent home with junk food, I think it is appropriate to send home a few fun toys instead. The ‘Happy Birthday’ Talking Tapes with cups included in the Science Fun Birthday Pack make perfect party favors. In each child’s bag I would also include a Growing Frog and a Rainbow Viewer.
These are inexpensive and fun items to send kids home with that will keep the entertainment (and science) going long after the party is over!
I hope these ideas have inspired you to throw a fun, relaxed, and relatively inexpensive science birthday party. Our kiddos are only young once, and these memories will last a lifetime. If you try any of these ideas, please leave a comment and tell us how it went!
Linda Dunnavant is a middle school teacher whose blog, “Tales of a Fifth Grade Teacher,” can be accessed here.
- Mentos® is a registered trademark of Perfetti Van Melle Corporation. All rights reserved.
- Diet Coke® is a registered trademark of The Coca-Cola Company. All rights reserved.