Not a Birthday Party But a Science Extravaganza

06 Aug

We’ve been to several birthday parties recently which we’ve really enjoyed.  Each time we’ve been to places where we have never been before and thoroughly enjoyed the company of our friends at the same time.

Then the boys began asking about whether they could have a party too.

We usually don’t have large parties as we prefer family celebrations.  I also feel uncomfortable making our children the centre of attention for a whole day and  having friends lavish them with gifts.

Yes, we do give the boys gifts on their birthdays and we do have a cake but when it’s just the family the focus is on remembering the day they came into our families and how much we have enjoyed having them as part of the family.    It’s not because it’s “their” special day, it’s because the part they play in our family is special and we’re acknowledging that.

How then did I give the boys a party without giving them a party?


I agreed to a party but it was not to celebrate a birthday.

Since my issue with birthday parties is “receiving”, we turned our attention to “giving” instead.  Our goal was to have fun with our friends and bless them by giving something to them.

Hence the “Science Extravaganza” was planned.

Because we couldn’t invite all of our friends, we selected the three families who are our oldest and dearest homeschooling friends.  They were the very first homeschooling families we met and the boys have grown up playing regularly with their children.


I created individual invitations for each of our little guests…there’s something nice about getting your very own invitation in the mail.

The invitation was easy to create.  I found some cute clip art of two scientists working together and I put Ethan and Brayden’s faces on the scientists.   We used this same technique to make name labels for our party bags and scientist posters for decoration.  I just popped the faces of our guests onto the heads of various scientist clip art.  Very easy and lots of fun for the guests who then got to take their special posters home with them.

I always put a lot of effort into decorations.  I think they set the tone of the party.  If you want your guests to walk in and say “Wow” then wow them with your decorative efforts.  And it doesn’t have to be expensive but it can be time consuming.

We used some items we already owned to create decorations. Our Zomes were perfect for this. The boys worked together to build spiffy geometric shapes to decorate the top of our kitchen cupboards. We’ll probably keep these up there too.



We covered most of the large windows and glass doors in our party zone with different coloured cellophane.   It instantly made the room seem festive.


We laminated the decorative posters we made of our guest scientists and hung them on the curtain rails around the room.

I also made a groovy geometric coloured ball that I saw on my internet travels.  It was super easy and the boys enjoyed working on this.   We hung this up under the fan…thankfully it’s winter here and not in use although we almost had a tragedy when I forgot and turned it on to quickly dry the mopped floors!


We tied string from curtain rail to curtain rail across the room so we could hang balloons and streamers we made from a snake cutout we found on DLTK.



Over the two entrances to the party zone we hung painting drop sheets that I had cut strips into.  I used two on each entrance for a thicker better effect.  My boys LOVED these and still have one hanging in the hallway!!  We also added some Caution and Hazard signs that we personalised, printed and laminated.



Ethan made his own contribution to the decorations.  He suggested that we could make a Powerpoint Slideshow of some of the Science things we have done and run it continuously during the party.   I thought it was a great idea so I found him some photos and left him to it.  I was very pleased with the result.

Prof Bunsen Science’s website was a wonderful help with all of the experiment supplies and goodies to give to our guests.  We drooled over this website for days before making our final order.  Into the children’s gift bags we put:  chocolate asteroids, a butterfly glider, rainbow peeps, flip over tops, a balancing eagle and a bag of expanding spheres.


We also ended up making a bag of goodies for the mums as there were so many things we found that we wanted to share with them.  We put all sorts of things into these:  a book, some Science cds, an element poster, a box of Gelli-Bath, materials to make rainsticks for the children, some Scratch-Lite paper, some Golden Rod paper, information to go with many of the experiments and also some information about Science week which is coming up soon.



We wanted our guests to go home loaded up with goodies.   Seeing them lug their bags to the car…we definitely achieved this!

Okay, onto the actual Science.

The gift we wanted to bless the children with was enthusiasm for Science.  We wanted to make an impression on them that wouldn’t be quickly forgotten.   Since we’ve already had young guests ask when the next Science party will be I think we achieved that.  But another party…Ahhh panic stations!!   Hehehehe.   But you know, I might consider it but not for another yet at least!

The trick to the experiments was to be thoroughly organised.  I made lists of materials that I would need, preparations that would need to be done beforehand, a list of instructions for each experiment, listed the best order to complete the experiments  in and noted any clean up requirements we might need.  I put these lists onto index cards so I could put each experiment’s card on individual trays right where I needed it.


I selected 8 experiments, primarily chemistry experiments as that’s what the boys are studying at the moment so it was a natural choice.  Steve Spangler Science was my one-stop idea website.  There was nothing they didn’t have!  And I loved being able to watch videos of experiments I planned to do.

First we chose to explore the colour changing nature of Golden Rod paper.  And wouldn’t you know it – the seemingly easiest one went wrong at the very start.  The Windex I had chosen for the base chemical wouldn’t react with the paper at all!!!  But having used this paper before with the boys I knew several other options we could try.  And thankfully it was the only hiccup of the day.


Next we explored another acid / base indicator – red cabbage dye.  I gave each guest cups of bicarbonate solution, vinegar, Windex, and lemon juice to add their red cabbage dye solution to.   Each guest was also given a reddy pink “Acid” card and a bluey green base card so they could sort their results.   It’s fun watching liquids change colours in front of your eyes but I think the key is to let the children do their own pouring.

I showed then the old vinegar and bicarb reaction and then told them about a slower but equally fun reaction the boys and I discovered.  We handed out cups of bicarb mixed with a little detergent and got our guests to pour lemon juice into the mix.  It fizzed and bubbled just like the previous reaction but it was slower and more foamy.  We even added extra bicarb and lemon juice to get every ounce of fun out it.

Ultraviolet Light Beads were next on our experiment schedule.  These beads are white when there is no UV light present, pastel colours when the UV rating is mild and bright colours when it’s high.  Each of the children threaded these beads onto a cord to make a necklace.  They particularly like these beads.  Brayden’s still wearing his beads!

While we were outside we made wet instant snow from a kit I bought from Prof Bunsen Science.  (Their school kits were wonderful.  They include everything you needed.)  The kids really enjoyed the texture of the wet snow  (so did the mums!!).  When they were finished exploring they put their snow into ziplock bags to take home with them.



We made slime next.  This was another kit and was very easy to make and lots and lots of fun.  The kit even came with little containers with lids for the children to take their slime home in.


Our next experiment was also from a kit.  We made coloured worms and it finally WORKED for me.  The boys and I had tried these before but never got them quite right.  This time I followed the instruction sheet to the letter!!!  Don’t get the impression that they are hard to make.  They were not.  My problem was my “it should be okay” attitude towards the instructions.  Clearly this doesn’t work well in Chemistry.  Hmmm….could be why I failed Chemistry at school!




Finally we headed outside to make a test tube lava lamp of sorts.  The children added bicarb to a little warm water at the bottom of their test tube and then added a scoop of red cabbage dye.  They then filled their test tube to the top with oil.  Finally they added a scoop or two of citric acid and watched the fizzing, bubbling, colour changing action.  Of course we added more bicarb too to keep the fun going as long as possible.


The children were starving at this point so we followed with homemade pizza and a whizz bang rocket cake made by our dear friend Lisa.


Sadly the rocket did not have a successful launch and crashed and burned…but doesn’t that add to the fun and reality of rockets!!  Hehehehe.  It tasted just as good!! Notice our nifty coloured flamed candles. Aren’t they groovy??



The boys made our afternoon treats – Dirt and worm cupcakes.  They tasted a whole lot better then they sound…honestly.  They even shoved Smarties into the top layer of the cooked cupcakes, under the icing, to give the crunch of biting into dirt.  Hehehehe.


So that was our Science Extravaganza.  The party you could have if you’re not having a birthday party.

I think our guests thoroughly enjoyed it.   I know we all enjoyed having them share the day with us.  Ethan said after they left, sitting all forlorn on the lounge, “Fun decorations are no fun without friends to share them with.”


Posted by on August 6, 2010 in Science


9 responses to “Not a Birthday Party But a Science Extravaganza

  1. SeventhHeaven

    August 7, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Wow! I love this! What a wonderful idea!
    I will have to try something like this with my children’s friends.
    Thank you for sharing this ?

  2. Jen in NSW

    August 7, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Those science kits sound great. I will definitely be checking them out. A great idea for a party too. Is a maths party next, with maybe something happening in the kitchen? As my eldest says there are no mistakes when chocolate is involved.

    Best wishes
    Jen in NSW

  3. kerrie

    August 7, 2010 at 8:40 am

    gee you are great aren’t you… love the idea of a party that is not a party! free us to have a special family party for birthdays and eliminates the gifts that we don’t need

  4. Tracey

    August 7, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    A Math Party would be interesting…definite possibility…and chocolate…well I agree with your eldest Jen!!!

  5. Susan

    August 8, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    In case you were wondering, the party was even better than the pictures give it credit. Thanks Tracey for organising such a memorable day- I’m sure my kids will be talking about the science party for years to come.

  6. Tracey

    August 8, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    You’re making me blush Susan!

  7. Renelle

    August 9, 2010 at 9:16 am

    What a fantastic idea, you could go into business!!
    This is a wonderful memory for the boys, I know my two would love it. You are are wonderfully creative teacher & mum.
    Blessings, Renelle

  8. Jen in NSW

    January 8, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Tracey, you are to blame for this.

    We filled stockings this last Christmas with mostly stuff from Prof Bunsen and yet we still haven’t tried everything I want to. Oh, so much fun!! And more to come.

    Best wishes
    Jen in NSW

    • Tracey

      January 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

      Living with boys nothing is safe or clean or quiet or still. They have boundless energy…for throwing sticky aliens on the ceiling.

      I do hope the aliens come down soon…hopefully not during dinner. Hehehehe.

      Prof Bunsen’s stuff is awesome. I’m always checking back to see what new stuff they have.


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