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OHSU Doernbecher shares scary-fun Halloween activity ideas

Mysterious STEM projects help to ensure that smiles are the only things that spread this holiday
Closeup shot of a child's hands holding homemade, olive green slime in their bare hands.
Consider a fun, home-based Halloween laboratory in lieu of trick-or-treating this year. (Getty Images)

Halloween will be different this year, but for good reason.

To help limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe, the Oregon Health Authority – in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance earlier this month recommending that Oregonians avoid door-to-door trick-or-treating, trunk-or-treat events and large gatherings.

While it may feel like the pandemic is putting a damper on the holiday, the good news is that Halloween can still be a scream.

“Try not to think of these changes as spoiling your traditional plans,” says Kristan Summers, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program mentor at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. “Instead, think of it as an opportunity for your family to express its creativity and maybe even make a few new Halloween traditions at the same time.”

For nearly two years, Summers has been working one-on-one with young OHSU Doernbecher patients to enhance their interests in STEM. By exploring virtual reality, 3D printing, circuit boards, computer coding, science experiments and more, OHSU Doernbecher’s STEM program not only expands access to exciting projects but also helps children and their families cope with the stresses of being in the hospital.

To assist in ramping up your Halloween 2020, Summers recommends using regular household items – and adult supervision - to create a monstrously fun and easy home-based laboratory, full of ooey-gooey experiments from Little Bins for Little Hands:


Closeup shot of a small container of "Witches' Brew," a homemade green slime, with a child's hand stirring the mixture.
Witch's brew slime: "Add sequins, glitter or plastic spiders to make it extra creepy and fun." (OHSU/Brawley)

Get gruesome with a cauldron of lively witch's brew (slime)

What you’ll need:

  • ½ cup white school glue
  • 1 tablespoon saline solution
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • A few drops of food coloring (any color will do!)
  • 2 small containers
  • Cookie or craft tray

What to do:

  1. In one container, mix together the glue and baking soda until thick
  2. Add food coloring and mix again
  3. Place container on a craft or cookie sheet (to help with spills)
  4. In the second container, mix the vinegar and saline solution
  5. As an adult to help pour the vinegar/saline mix into the glue/baking soda mix and stir until the solution boils over
  6. Reach in and pull out your slime!

Summers says: Try adding sequins, glitter, plastic spiders or other Halloween surprises to your slime mix to make it extra creepy and fun.


Closeup shot of a homemade "lava lamp" toy: blue oil and water in a plastic bottle.
Magical lava lamp: "Shine a flashlight on your mixture to watch it gleam!" (OHSU/Brawley)

Try your hand at a magical lava lamp

What you’ll need:

  • Water
  • A clear plastic bottle
  • Vegetable oil
  • Any shade of food coloring. I prefer the neon colors for the best results.
  • Alka-Seltzer (or other tablets that fizz)
  • Glitter is always fun and optional.

What to do:

  1. Fill the plastic bottle ¼ full with water, then add vegetable oil until the bottle is nearly full
  2. Once the water and oil have separated, slowly add 12-15 drops of food coloring
  3. Ask an adult to carefully cut a fizz tablet into 2-4 small pieces
  4. Drop the tablet pieces, one at a time, into the bottle.
  5. Watch as the oil, water and color bubbles together like a real lava lamp.

Summers says: Shine a flashlight (or your smartphone app) on your mixture to make it gleam!


A closeup shot of a white plastic cup with oblong eyes and mouth drawn in black pen, with a foamy bubble solution erupting from the top and spilling over the side.
Billowy, bubbly ghosts: "Make a game out of it. See who can blow the most bubbles." (OHSU/Brawley)

Create a billowy, bubbly ghost

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons corn syrup
  • 4 Tablespoons dish soap
  • Paper or plastic cups
  • Straws
  • Mixing container and spoon
  • Markers
  • Craft or cookie sheet

What to do:

  1. Mix water, corn syrup and dish soap in a container
  2. Use markers to draw fun ghostly faces on a paper or plastic cup
  3. Place the cup(s) on a craft or cookie sheet (to help with spills)
  4. Ask an adult to pour a small amount of the water/corn syrup/dish soap solution into each cup
  5. Place a straw into the solution within the cup and begin blowing (make sure not to suck inward!) and watch the ghastly bubbles appear

Summers says: Make a game out of it. See who can blow the most, or biggest, bubbles in a certain amount of time.

Need some pumpkin carving inspiration?
Consider a frightfully adorable custom HOWL-oween template featuring OHSU Doernbecher’s beloved Hospital Facility Dogs, Hope and Davis.

Download the templates here, and make sure to share your creation on social media using the #DBHope and #DBDavis hashtag(s).

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