Carousing Kids Chemistry

Kids Carousing? A kid’s party with beer?!?  Ok, how about ‘Chemistry with Kids’ and homebrew ROOT beer.  Although, I must admit, what kid’s birthday party isn’t better with a beer…or two…for the adults?

Over the weekend, I set out to fulfill my now 8-year old son’s birthday wishes for a chemistry birthday themed party.  Oh – the choices Google provided for experiments I could try on a hoard of 8-year old boys.   Ideas ranged from elephant toothpaste, Mentos and Diet Coke, to liquid nitrogen ice cream.  Which translates to a giant mess and potential injuries involving more than a band-aid.

I’m no Martha Stewart – so periodic table cupcake displays were out. But, Pinterest – that time-sink, covetous of the picture-perfect-moment site – lured me with its complementary color themed displays and beautiful detail shots of beakers filled with candy.  So, I may have splurged on a few items from Oriental trading company.

Unattainable Pinterest Moment VS. One-click Oriental Trading Decorations



But no matching Helium balloons for this mom.  Although I read that WIRED article about how it’s not as scarce as we think, I just didn’t need one more thing to pick up before the party!

In the end, I chose three separate experiments with 3 different success outcomes.

1.  Success!      2.  It Sort of Worked     and…     3. Epic Fail!


The first and most successful experiment – Brew your own root beer.  Steve Spangler has a great “How-To” video with instructions.  I modified it slightly and used no-rinse sanitizer instead of boiling everything.

The supplies were all available in a grocery store, except the root beer extract.  Order that from Amazon, or you will drive all over hell and yonder less than 24 hours before the party looking for that one specialty store that has it in stock.  Like I did.  And surprisingly – Walmart was that specialty store, who knew?!?




I picked up 3 lbs of dry ice for the experiment for 8 kids.  BUT, make sure you break it up ahead of time into small pieces.  I had lots of bowls with frozen root beer surrounding a slowly sublimating chunk of dry ice.

I knew the dry ice would take a while to be absorbed by the root beer mixture.  So, I planned a second activity to “fill the time.”  This was perhaps overly ambitious on my part.  Hindsight is always 20/20!

It Sort of Worked…

Fruit Spaghetti using Agar-Agar seemed like a good compliment.  Molecule-R has all the parts for one person to make fruit spaghetti.  I naively thought I could replace their specialized parts with items found at Home Depot.

I only needed 7 more syringes and 20 feet of silicone tubing.  Famous last words.  The syringe needed a REALLY good seal and the tubing needed to be high quality enough so the gummy mixture wouldn’t stick.

Half the noodles never made it out of the tube and most became projectile gummy worms flying at other kids when they finally applied enough force to eject the semi-formed noodle.  Oooppppss!

Epic Fail

Hot Ice Cream.  Perhaps I should have recognized the oxymoron in this description.  Perhaps I should have tested it before the party.  Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.  All I will say is that what we created did not look remotely like the picture here and it tasted like warm sugary cream cheese (that should explain the taste and provide the appropriate visual for our creation).


But all in all – the kids had a great time.  Which is all that really matters.  But, I’ll be the first to admit, the number of dishes created was INSANE.  Thank goodness for my parents and my in-laws who were most certainly put to work!

When you decide to take on a Kids Chemistry Party, here are some lessons I learned:

  1. Pick simple experiments. It’s amazing how long kids can play with the same thing.  They are natural scientists.  Test this, blow on that, mix these two things.  I tried to make every second a learning opportunity, but they were learning without my direction.
  2. Find a way to personalize.  They loved having their own personalized recipe.  They loved making something different than the prescribed activity.  Look at all the colors of root beer we ended up with (that was purposeful!).  They also loved making their own labels.
  3. Failure is good. The noodles being difficult to get out of the tubes – not a problem.  They loved the projectile noodles.  The hot ice cream being a mangled mess – no worries.  They still wanted to test it before and after, they wanted to know about the chemical I added.  They wanted to try it, again and again, to see if a different scooper or a different pot would change the outcome.  Kids don’t interpret it as a failure – they had no expectations.  I did.

Happy Birthday Gryffin and here’s to enjoying years of experimenting to come!