Kids love glow sticks and today we’re going to make one at home! This article covers several ways to make glow sticks as some of the materials available have changed since this article was originally written in 2011.
Make a glow stick with zinc sulfide powder
My kids love glow sticks. We have to keep the glow stick companies in business because I always have to have a supply of glow sticks on hand.
They love cracking them and taking them to bed with him! My son, Nicholas’ dream is to get your hands on an unopened box of 15 glow sticks and crack them all at once.
So we couldn’t pass up this simple experiment to get him to make his own glow stick when we found it in a kit.
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Supplies are needed
We have all of this in one kit, but (back then) there are many websites on the internet that have instructions on how to make your own glow sticks and where to find the zinc sulfide powder (which seems to have changed lately) for 10 years ).
Nicholas loves science experiments because he’s allowed to wear his safety gloves. However, these are obviously adult sized gloves and they cannot be very safe in preventing him from gripping objects well. Does anyone know where I can find child-sized disposable latex gloves?
Daddy held the test tube while Nicholas measured the zinc sulfide and transferred it to the test tube.
Add the water and vegetable oil.
Place the lid on the test tube and shake to combine the ingredients.
We made GLOW !!
Zinc sulfide powder and luminous experiments for children
I searched the internet for this glow stick kit or information about the measurements if you were to buy these ingredients independently of a kit. There isn’t a lot of information! Here are some of the more helpful resources I found doing this search …
Zinc sulfide powder is referred to as glow powder in this cute firefly-in-a-jar experiment by Steve Spangler, and they use just a little bit in combination with glue to create glowing “fireflies” in a jar. There is a great explanation for the phosphorescence and how zinc sulfide works in this experiment:
When the electrons in the atoms of special molecules such as zinc sulfide are excited, they move further away from the nucleus – into higher or more distant orbits. In order to be excited, the electrons have to absorb energy. In this case, light provided the energy required to move the electrons to a higher energy level.
Steve Spangler Science
Zinc sulfide powder added to the slime
Another resource I came across while researching this homemade glow plug experiment was that the Montgomery Schools MD site has steps for making classroom slime that glows with zinc sulfide. You can find directions here. They recommend:
Stir the glow agent into the adhesive gel of the PVA solution. You want 1/8 teaspoon of zinc sulfide powder per 30 ml (2 tablespoons) of solution.
Montgomery Schools MD
Replacing glow in the dark color for zinc sulfide powder
Many of the suggestions for glow-in-the-dark projects with kids have been to use glow-in-the-dark colors, which are now widely available, instead of zinc sulfide powder. We’ve done this many times here on the Kids Activities Blog because it’s easy and includes coloring too! Here are some of our favorite bright color ideas:
Light stick kits for children
Since we couldn’t find the original glow stick kit used above in this article, we went looking for others that would be fun to play with at home and then created a glow stick with one of them. .. continue reading! It seems that something has changed in the last 10 years that it is difficult to find a single set of experiments. Most kits have a full set of kids science experiments that glow in the dark.
Best Glow in the Dark Science Kit for Kids
- Science laboratory from Thames & Kosmos that shines in the dark – we bought that (see the additional information on making homemade glow sticks at home below). This has 5 experiments on glow in the dark for kids including making your own glow sticks. The kit is designed to help children learn about phosphorescence and includes a UV flashlight to watch some of the experiments.
- National Geographic’s Glow in the Dark Lab – make your own slime, grow your own crystal, light up putty and admire a fluorescent specimen of Wernerite rock. There’s a glow-in-the-dark guide that explains why everything is so glowing!
- Big Bag of Glow in the Dark Science – There’s a whole range of fun STEM science projects here … over 50 of them! Kids make invisible ink, glowing putty, jelly balls, crystals, fluffy rainbow slime, monster blood, glowing dough, magnetic mud, and more.
- Scientific Explorer Glow in the Dark Fun Lab by ALEX Toys – 5 awesome glowing activities including slime to glow in the dark and a human powered lightbulb. There is also a DIY light stick kit inside.
Make a light pen with fluorescent pigment
We bought the Glow in the Dark Science Lab from Thames & Kosmos because one of the experiments was clearly making homemade glow sticks. It was a simple process with good results.
The kit came with some foldable test tube racks that we recommend taping into place and everything you need for this kids homemade glow stick activity.
Supplies are needed
- Yellow fluorescent pigment
- Pink fluorescent pigment
- UV flashlight
Fill 2 test tubes with 10 ml of water each.
Using a tiny spatula, put a tiny amount of the fluorescent pigment in each test tube – yellow in one and pink in the other.
Tip: If they mean tiny, they mean tiny … if you use too much it won’t light up properly!
Put the tips in the test tubes and shake well.
Darken the room and make both liquids glow in the dark by illuminating them with the UV flashlight.
Do You Make A Light Stick With Mountain Dew Soda?
OK, one thing I kept coming across in my research into making a glow stick was the rumor that people could make glow sticks by adding baking soda to a bottle of Mountain Dew Pop. There are even gorgeous glowing pictures on the internet that say it was made with Mountain Dew and baking soda.
So if you’ve heard and seen such information by chance, here is one of the best videos I found answering the question, can you really make a glow stick out of Mountain Dew?
Can you make a glow stick out of Mountain Dew Video?
Okay, maybe we won’t try this at home.
But … there was one thing I think I might want to try next time – making a solar powered reusable light stick.
More Glow in the Dark fun from the Kids Activities Blog
How did you make a glow stick Do you have a favorite science kit for kids in the dark?