Making Our Own Glow Stick


Kids absolutely love glow sticks and today we are going to be making one at home! This article contains multiple ways of making glow sticks because since we originally wrote this article in 2011 some of the supplies available have changed.

Let’s make a glow stick!

Making a Glow Stick with Zinc Sulfide Powder

My kids LOVE glow sticks. We must keep the glow stick companies in business because I always have to have a stock of glow sticks on hand.

They love to crack them and take them to bed with him! My son, Nicholas’ dream is to get his 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 let him make his own glow stick when we found it in a kit.

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Homemade glow stick supplies and steps to create glow stick - Kids Activities Blog
Let’s make a glow stick at home!

Supplies Needed

We got all of this in a kit but (at the time) there are lots of sites on the internet that have directions for making your own glow sticks as well as where to locate the zinc sulfide powder (which seems to have changed in the last 10 years).

Directions

Nicholas loves doing science experiments because he gets to wear his safety gloves. However, these are obviously adult size gloves and they can’t be very safe if they inhibit him from grasping items well. Anyone know where I can find child-size disposable latex gloves?

Putting the zinc sulfide in the test tube with gloves on - Kids Activities Blog
Carefully put the zinc sulfide powder into the test tube.

Step 1

Daddy held the test tube while Nicholas measured the zinc sulfide and transferred it to the test tube.

Step 2

Add the water and vegetable oil.

Step 3

Place top on the test tube and shake to combine the ingredients.

Our glow stick works after making it with zinc sulfide powder - Kids Activities Blog
Our glow stick glows!

Voila!

We made GLOW!!

Zinc Sulfide Powder and Glowing Experiments for Kids

I have searched the internet for this glow stick kit or information on what the measurements would be if you bought these ingredients independently of a kit. There is not a lot of information out there! Here are a few of the more helpful resources I found in that search…

Glow Powder around and inside of jars in the dark - Kids Activities Blog
Glow powder makes everything glow!

Glow Powder

Zinc Sulfide powder is called glow powder in this cute fireflies in a jar experiment from 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 of phosphorescence in this experiment and how zinc sulfide works:

When the electrons in the atoms of special molecules like zinc sulfide become excited, they move farther away from the nucleus — into higher or more distant orbits. In order to become excited, the electrons must take on energy. In this case, light provided the required energy to cause the electrons to move to a higher energy level. 

Steve Spangler Science

Make glow in the dark slime with zinc sulfide powder - Kids Activities Blog
Let’s make glow in the dark slime!

Zinc Sulfide Powder Added to Slime

Another resource I came across when researching this homemade glow stick experiment was that the Montgomery Schools MD site has steps for creating slime in the classroom that glows using zinc sulfide. You can find the directions here. They recommend:

Stir in the glow agent into the glue gel of PVA solution. You want 1/8 teaspoon of zinc sulfide powder per 30 ml (2 tablespoons) of solution.

Montgomery Schools MD

Easy to make glowing slime recipe with glow in the dark paint
Use glow in the dark paint instead of zinc sulfide powder

Substituting Glow in the Dark Paint for Zinc Sulfide Powder

Many of the suggestions for making glow in the dark projects with kids were to use glow in the dark paints that are available everywhere now instead of zinc sulfide powder. We have done that many times here at Kids Activities Blog because it is easy and includes the coloring as well! Here are a few of our favorite glow in the dark paint ideas:

Glow stick kits for kids for glowing science experiments at home - Kids Activities Blog
Let’s find a glow stick kit to make glowing stuff at home!

Glow Stick Kits for Kids

Since we couldn’t find the original glow stick kit used above in this article, we went out and found some others that might be fun to play with at home and then created a glow stick with one of them…keep reading! It appears that one of the things that has changed in the last 10+ years is that it is hard to find a single experiment kit. Most of the kits have a whole bunch of glow in the dark science experiments for kids.

Top Glow in the Dark Science Kits for Kids - Kids activities blog
We went out on a search to find the best glow in the dark science kits for kids!

Best Glow in the Dark Science Kits for Kids

  • Glow-in-the-Dark Science Lab from Thames & Kosmos this is the one we purchased (see the additional information about making homemade glow sticks at home below). This has 5 glow in the dark experiments for kids including making your own glow sticks. The kit is created to help kids learn about phosphorescence and includes a UV flashlight to observe some of the experiments.
  • Glow in the Dark Lab from National Geographic – make your own slime, grow your own crystal, make putty light up and marvel at a flourescent wernerite rock specimen. There is a glow in the dark guide to explain why everything is so glowy!
  • Big Bag of Glow in the Dark Science – This has a whole bunch of STEM fun science projects…over 50 of them! Kids will make invisible ink, glowing putty, jelly balls, crystals, fluffy rainbow slime, monster blood, glow dough, magnetic mud and more.
  • Scientific Explorer Glow in the Dark Fun Lab from ALEX Toys – 5 awesome glowing activities including making glow in the dark slime and a human powered light bulb. There is also a diy glow stick kit inside.

Making a Glow Stick 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 folding test tube stands that we recommend using tape to secure and everything needed to complete this homemade glow stick activity for kids.

Supplies Needed

  • Yellow fluorescent pigment
  • Pink flourescent pigment
  • UV flashlight
  • Water

Directions

making a glow stick with fluorescent pigment step 1
Pour the water carefully into the test tube.

Step 1

Fill 2 test tubes with 10 ml water each.

Making a glow stick with fluorescent pigment step 2
Add the fluorescent pigment on a small spatula.

Step 2

Using a teeny tiny spatula, put a tiny amount of the fluorescent pigment in each test tube – yellow in one and pink in the other.

Tip: When they mean tiny, they mean tiny…if you use too much, it won’t glow properly!

Making a glow stick with fluorescent pigment step 3
Add the cap and shake well.

Step 3

Add the tops to the test tubes and shake well.

Finished homemade glow stick experiment with glowing yellow - Kids Activities Blog
The yellow glow stick glows with the help of the UV flashlight below.

Step 4

Darken the room and make both liquids glow in the dark by shining the UV flashlight on them.

Make a Glow Stick with Mountain Dew Soda?

OK, one thing that I kept running across in my how to make a glow stick research 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 saying it was made with Mountain Dew and baking soda.

So, if you happen to have heard and seen such information, here is one of the best videos I found that answer the question, can you really make a glow stick from Mountain Dew…

Can You Make a Glow Stick from Mountain Dew Video

OK, so maybe we won’t be trying that one at home.

But…there was one thing that I think next time I want to try – making a solar powered reusable glow stick.

More Glow in the Dark Fun from Kids Activities Blog

How did you make a glow stick? Do you have a favorite glow in the dark science kit for kids?

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