Making Halloween Fun and Educational
Children take Halloween very seriously. And why not? As kids, it’s their job — planning their costume weeks ahead, reconsidering at the last minute and planning the whole thing again. And then there’s the candy. How much will they get? What will they collect it in? How long can they make it last?
But whether you’re taking your kids trick or treating, or having a party, Halloween can actually be a fun educational experience without kids even noticing they’re learning.
So here’s a plan to make the night of frights include a little math and science.
Decorations that make you scared and a little smarter:
Scary “Growing” Ghost
(demonstrates chemical reactions)
You’ll need: ¼ cup vinegar / 2 TB baking soda/ plastic water bottle/ balloon/ a funnel/ Sharpie marker.
Draw ghost eyes and mouth on the balloon with the Sharpie. Pour the vinegar into the plastic bottle. Place the funnel in the balloon and fill with the baking soda. Pinch off the balloon to prevent the baking soda from spilling and stretch the balloon over the open bottle top. Now release the baking soda into the bottle and watch as the balloon fills and the scary ghost “grows,” demonstrating a chemical reaction.
What we learn: When the two chemicals are mixed, they form a third, carbonic acid, which makes carbon dioxide gas bubbles that blow up the balloon.
(demonstrates sound from friction and vibration)
You’ll need: a balloon/ an ordinary metal nut (hex nut)/ Sharpie marker.
Draw a scary screaming face on the balloon. Place the nut inside and blow up the balloon to ¾ full. Tie the end.
Now start to gyrate the balloon in circles to get the nut rolling around the inside. Eventually as it rolls faster and faster inside the balloon it will start to “scream.”
What we learn: Friction slows the nut down as it rubs against the balloon and the rubbing makes it vibrate. This vibration turns to acoustic energy, or sound.
Glow In The Dark Ghost
You’ll need: dish soap/ paper/ scissors/ masking or painters tape/ a sponge/ a black light bulb or a black light (available where Halloween decorations are sold).
Draw a simple ghost shape on a piece of paper and cut it out. Now place the paper where you want the glowing ghost, and put two circles of tape where the eyes should go. Using the paper as a stencil, sponge the dish soap into the hole in the paper with a light even dab, then remove the tape circles. When you shine the black light on it, the ghost will glow.
What we learn: Brightening agents are suspended in the dish soap to make clothes seem whiter, and they react under the black light, creating an emission of light as a glow, we call “fluorescence.”
Once kids have brought home their big haul, here are some uses for the candy other than eating it all:
How Many Candies?
You’ll need: Halloween candy/ a large glass jar/ pencil and paper.
Pour all the candy in a jar and put on the lid. Put in candy with different sizes and fill it up. Now write down the different names of candies on the paper. Have the children study the jar and write down their estimates of each kind of candy next to the name. Then empty the jar and count each kind. Compare to the estimates
What we learn: Builds skills at estimating.
You’ll need: Halloween candy/ pencil and large paper.
Make rows on a large piece of paper for each type of candy and write the candy name. Have the children guess which rows will be the longest and shortest, based on the pile of candy. Then have them sort the candy into the rows.
What we learn: Graphing teaches us how to visualize differences in quantity. It shows us the relationships between things. Some are twice as many as others. Some are three times as many, etc.
You’ll need: Halloween candy
Have children lay out their candy on the floor or a table, in AB patterns, ABA patterns and ABC patterns.
What we learn: Strengthens pattern building.
Halloween can offer treats that are also food for thought! Allowing parents to get in a little extra brain stretching wherever you can.