There is just something about opening a box with packing peanuts.
I remember holding the old Styrofoam ones between the thumb and index finger of one hand and flicking them with my opposite index finger to make them fly across the room as a child. My friend and I would mark how far they went, stopping every once in a while to listen to the sound as we snapped them in half.
This week I was excited to give some packing peanuts a fun spin to make Vanishing Ghosts. It’s a fun and super simple Halloween STEM activity.
There are so many fun things you can do with packing peanuts.
Kids of all ages love to use toothpicks to build simple structures with them. You can also make structures with cut Styrofoam, too.
We had fun using them in this simple kids Halloween activity.
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When my husband first opened the box and lifted out the item he had ordered, I got excited. There were tons of biodegradable packing peanuts!
We have tons of polystyrene peanuts, but had never gotten to play with the starch ones that dissolve in water.
Right away I started thinking of what fun we could have with them. With Halloween coming up, I wanted to give it a holiday twist. The packing peanuts made perfect ghosts.
This may be the easiest Halloween STEM activity ever!
- Biodegradable Packing Peanuts
- Black Permanent Marker
- Small Bowl
(To make future STEM at home easy, keep these most often used STEM supplies on hand.)
To create your ghosts, use a black permanent marker to draw a ghost face on each packing peanut. Remember, they MUST be biodegradable packing peanuts. (That means they are made of starch, not polystyrene.)
If your child is anything like mine, they will want to do this activity several times, so be sure to have plenty of little ghosts ready. Your child may even want to help make the ghosts.
Now it’s time to make the ghosts disappear with a bit of science “magic.”
Fill a small bowl with room temperature water.
Have your child place one ghost on top and watch what happens.
You will start to see small bubbles appearing on the sides of the packing peanut ghost. And then the ghost will disappear right before your eyes!
Your results may depend on the type of biodegradable packing peanuts you use.
Ours dissolved within just a couple minutes. If the melting packing peanuts are taking too long to disappear, try using hot water to help speed up the process.
Why Do Biodegradable Packing Peanuts Melt?
These new packing peanuts are made out of biodegradable corn starch, which means they break down easily instead of just sitting in the garbage dump for years and years like the older style ones. The water helps break them down even faster.
Want to take it a bit further?
Have your child use a stopwatch to time how fast the ghosts dissolve in different temperatures of water. (Turning it a little more into a real STEM activity.)
This simple Halloween STEM activity would be fun to do at a kids Halloween party.
Next time you get a package in the mail, show the kids how to fling those packing peanuts across the room. Then put them to use in this simple Halloween activity and make vanishing ghosts.
I bet it will quickly become their favorite ghost activity yet.
You may also like:
- Halloween STEM: Make a Pumpkin Pulley
- DIY Halloween Party Games
- Colorful Crayon Drip Pumpkins
- Take Your Child’s Learning to the Next Level with Up!
This post was originally published October 4, 2016.