5 Amazing Glow-in-the-Dark Halloween Activities
Want to astonish your neighbors and trick-or-treaters?
How about serving some spooky shimmering refreshments at your next Halloween party or haunted house?
With a black light and just a few ingredients that make things glow, you can have the creepiest crypt on the block.
In this article, you’ll learn how to produce my five favorite glow-in-the-dark science projects, perfect for making a ghoulish impression this Halloween.
Why Should I Make Glowing Concoctions?
Halloween, more than any other time of year, is the season to explore nighttime frights, conduct spooky experiments and investigate unexplained phenomena. Halloween is dark and disguised and mysterious. It’s the perfect backdrop for things that glow and gush after the lights go out.
The five glow-in-the-dark projects below are a fun way for you and your kids to get into the spirit of this eerie, ominous time of year and add your own bit of creepy cheer to parties or your own family adventure on a chilling October afternoon.
Best of all, you’ll learn some of the science behind luminescence, answering the inevitable question, “How does it do that?”
Watch this video for a preview of the spooky, glowing activities you’ll learn below.
Ready to go glow?
Whether you do one of the experiments in this illuminating article or all five, you and your kids are sure to have lots of fun.
#1: Glowing Pumpkins
If you’re like me and don’t like to scoop pumpkins before decorating, then this activity is for you.
Here’s a quick video overview:
This video will step you through creating a glow-in-the-dark jack-o-lantern.
The secret to this project is a glow powder like luminous zinc sulfide or glow paint from a hobby store.
If you’re using a real pumpkin, first wipe it off with a damp cloth to remove any dirt from the pumpkin patch. Once rinsed, dry the pumpkin thoroughly.
Draw face pieces on the contact paper and cut each piece out. Peel the pieces off the paper backing and arrange them as a face for your pumpkin.
Once your jack-o-lantern face is complete, take your pumpkin outside and place it on a drop cloth. If you need to do the experiment indoors, make sure that you are in a well-ventilated area and place the pumpkin in a cardboard box.
Spray sections of the pumpkin with spray adhesive. Sprinkle immediately with the Glow Powder. For best results, hold the adhesive 4-6 inches (10-14 cm) away from the pumpkin and spray a heavy coat. When sprinkling the powder, tilt your pumpkin to get it evenly covered.
Alternate instructions: If you’re using glowing paint instead of the powder, paint the entire pumpkin instead of spraying and sprinkling.
Fill an empty saltshaker with the Glow Powder. This will make it much easier to sprinkle the powder onto your pumpkin.
Or make your own Glow Powder shaker from an empty portion cup. Cover the top of the portion cup with aluminum foil and hold it in place with a rubber band. Use a thumbtack to poke holes in the foil… Just like a salt shaker!
Continue to spray and powder small sections of the pumpkin until the entire pumpkin is covered with powder. Carefully shake off any excess powder as you go.
Collect the excess Glow Powder and pour it back into the shaker.
Repeat these steps until your pumpkin is completely and evenly covered with powder.
Let the adhesive dry completely, then spray the entire pumpkin with sealant to make sure that the Glow Powder stays affixed to the pumpkin.
Let the sealant dry. Your spooky Halloween decoration is almost ready!
Carefully pull the contact paper off of the pumpkin.
Save the remaining glow powder in the container.
Place your pumpkin next to a black light for an extra bright glow on Halloween and be prepared for some surprised trick-or-treaters.
#2: Glowing Eyeballs
Imagine reaching into a jar filled with slimy, gooey eyeballs for Halloween. Or sticking your hand into a blind jar filled with squishy, icky brains.
The secret is a special water-absorbing polymer called Jelly Marbles or Water Beads.
They start as tiny little hard beads. But add the beads to water, wait about an hour and see what happens after they hydrate.
They get huge! And squishy!
To make them glow, add a little Atomic Glow to the water before hydrating the beads.
Place the water beads in front of a black light. Or fill a bowl with the “eyeballs” and place a black light behind it. The eyeballs will glow in the dark!
Once you touch them, you won’t be able to put them down.
#3: Glowing Geysers
Dropping Mentos into Diet Coke has become a phenomenon on the Internet and in driveways and parks across the country. It’s simply irresistible to create an explosive reaction and then run for your life.
How could you possibly top that?
Watch this video to see how to create Glowing geysers = messy fun kids and adults love.
You could make glowing geysers, that’s how! Grab some tonic water and Mentos at the grocery store and set the stage for a spooky Halloween fountain show on your driveway.
Be sure to buy multiple bottles of tonic water and packages of Mentos, because kids will want to do this over and over again.
Tonic water contains quinine, a chemical that glows under a black light. Quinine was added to tonic water to help fight off malaria.
Carefully open the bottle of tonic water. Position the bottle on the ground so that it will not tip over.
Place a black light near the bottle or replace your driveway lights with black light bulbs and watch the tonic water glow!
Unwrap a whole roll of Mentos. The goal is to drop all of the Mentos into the bottle of water at the same time (which is trickier than it looks).
One method for doing this is to roll a piece of paper into a tube just big enough to hold the loose Mentos. You’ll want to be able to position the tube directly over the mouth of the bottle so that all of the candies can drop into the bottle at the same time.
Warn the spectators to stand back.
Drop all of the Mentos into the bottle at the same time and then RUN! Get truckin’! Move out of the way… so long… bye-bye… hasta la vista!
#4: Glowing Ice Cubes
Use your new-found knowledge of glowing tonic water to make spooky ice cubes for your party drinks.
Just pour tonic water in your ice cube trays and freeze.
Use black lights to decorate your party.
When the tonic water is completely frozen, add the cubes to your drinks to create an eerie, glowing beverage!
You can also add tonic water to clear soda or juices to make them glow as well.
#5: Glowing Waves
This activity is simple, yet so cool your family will want to do it again and again.
At a party or in a classroom, you can give each child a test tube or empty travel-sized lotion bottle for individual experimentation; but for the best effect, do it big!
Grab a large cylinder or tall vase and fill it ¾ full with water.
Turn off the lights and turn on the black light.
Squeeze about a tablespoon (15 ml) of Atomic Glow into the water (use less for individual vials—just a few drops) and watch it fall. Your kids (and you, too!) will be amazed as the glowing liquid slowly travels through the water, mixes with it and turns plain water into a mysterious, glowing concoction.
Optional individual-sized experiment: Fill a test tube or empty travel-sized lotion or shampoo bottle 3/4 full with water. Squirt a hearty blob of Atomic Glow into the water. Top off the bottle with water and cap it. Turn off the lights and turn on the black light.
It’s a ghost in a jar!
Optional: Take it further and drop a few pieces of dry ice and a squirt of liquid dish soap in the cylinder and watch it bubble, glow and erupt. Just place a bucket or something underneath to catch the drips.
Sometimes, the easiest activity grabs the biggest oohs and ahhs. Glowing waves is one of those. It’s mesmerizing!
How Does it Work?
To learn about the science of things that glow, you need to understand two important terms—fluorescence and phosphorescence. It’s also important to note that not all zinc sulfide glows, but luminous zinc sulfide does glow.
Fluorescence: This type of luminescence occurs when some form of radiation, such as light, causes an object to glow.
For example, fluorescent papers and poster boards glow in the daylight. They may seem to glow even brighter under black light (ultraviolet), but in either case, as soon as the light is removed, the glow stops.
Fluorescent things do not glow in the dark all by themselves; they require some other form of energy such as ultraviolet light to “excite” them.
Phosphorescence: Phosphorescence is just like fluorescence, except that the glow continues even after the light used to excite it is removed. Glow-in-the-dark toys phosphoresce brightly in total darkness after being “charged” or excited by ordinary white or ultraviolet light.
Glow Powder: This material is a phosphorescent powder that absorbs surrounding light energy and then releases that energy when the lights go out. It’s the perfect way to learn about energy… and a great way to celebrate Halloween!
Atomic Glow: This is a special coloring agent that fluoresces under black light. When the energy from the black light “excites” the fluorescent dye, you end up with a brightly glowing, very exciting addition to any (water-soluble) experiment! Please note: Atomic Glow will stain.
Some final thoughts….
These eerie, glowing activities are perfect for entertaining the kids on an October afternoon. Decorate your Halloween party or bring them into a classroom to share with the class. Don’t stop with our ideas—what will you make glow in the dark?
Looking for more glow-in-the-dark science experiments? Visit our experiment page for additional ideas.
What do you think? We want to see your glowing Halloween science experiments. Share your concoctions (with pictures) in the comments below.
Steve Spangler is an author, teacher, toy designer, Emmy award-winning television personality and creator of a huge soda mess. His appearances on television demonstrate his passion for making learning fun. Other posts by Steve Spangler »