Glow sticks have been around for quite some time and you may think of them as mystical (which you can read more about how they work here) little tubes of light; best left to children, campers, or even helpers for disaster relief. What you may not know is that these luminous little gadgets can actually be used to liven up your next gathering. Whether you’re young or old, they can still be entertaining today, and there are other things to do with them besides swing them around and watch the light trails. As a child I remember being so amazed by how a small unimpressive-looking object like a glow stick could shine so bright, and the feeling of the subtle cracking and popping sound made when you bend it the first time; then hours of running around with my brothers and sister ensued - waving them around, pretending they were lightsabers. We may have been dorky, but you couldn’t say we didn’t have an imagination. Thankfully there are some fun ideas that incorporate glow sticks and can add a nice accent to your next party or event.
While glow sticks have been popular for the last 35 years, they began as an experiment to recreate the glow that fireflies give off. They Navy among others patented the idea in the 60’s, and have used them as an alternate light source in cases when they have to light the way without generating heat. They work when a thin layer on the inside of the stick is broken, mixing two chemicals to give you that warm glowing feeling. With them being so popular amongst everyone from children to military personnel, you will be able to find them almost anywhere. You can find ones that glow for up to 12 hours so whether you want them for fun, or for function, having a few on hand can be a good idea.
While they can serve a serious purpose we are going to take a look at how they can be fun. Use one this Halloween in place of a candle when you set out your pumpkin this Halloween. You’ll have multiple color options to choose from; I like to swap out the colors when I have to change out an expired glow stick. Here’s another fun idea; take a paper towel or toilet paper roll and cut out eye-shaped holes – you’ve just created yourself some creepy eyes you could hide in the bushes! I’ve also used one-gallon milk cartons cleaned out with a few sticks inside. Add a ghostly face drawn on for a spooky addition to liven up any decorations you have set out. Uses for the milk carton go way beyond just Halloween – other holidays such as Easter, 4th of July, and Thanksgiving open up other opportunities to create this cost-effective decoration. With the addition of a little construction paper, glue and scissors, this could be a neat little project for the kids. Add in some cotton balls, and you have a Santa that is not only fun to make, it’s also safe for the little ones to play with.
Glowing Cups & Balloons
For this project, start with taking a package of glow bracelets and place one in the bottom of a plastic cup. Then place a clear plastic cup inside that cup, giving beverages a nice glowing touch. You can find cheap packages of glow bracelets, making this an affordable project. My mother used to insert them into balloons and hang them from the walls for birthday parties- try this at your next gathering and you’re guaranteed to get compliments from your guests. Obviously this makes for a memorable moment for children, since it certainly made an impression on me! You might even have enough glow bracelets left over to write a fun, glowing message on the wall such as Happy Birthday, or Congratulations depending on the occasion. Just connect as many bracelets together as you need to form the words!
Glowing Mason Jars
Did you know that the chemicals in glow sticks are toxic if swallowed? I’m sure you did, but just in case, here is a disclaimer: Glow sticks are very dangerous and could cause serious injury if opened, so it’s best not to open one without adult supervision. With that being said, you can create an exciting glow jar by cracking open a glow stick and emptying the contents into a Mason jar, then adding in a little water. Shake it up and you have this awesome looking glowing light that is something that makes an excellent accent for your next event or get-together. If you want to add extra pizazz, add some glitter to the mix and these could make nice centerpieces for that next “Princess under the Sea” themed birthday party. Again, I must point out that while these procedures create an effect that will mesmerize for hours, the opening of a glow stick should only be done by a responsible adult. Be careful, and remember to keep safety a priority!
I also like to use glow sticks as accent lighting on movie night, placing a few behind the TV or in the entertainment center. Using a color theme gives a nice touch when watching your favorite team win the super bowl, having a few friends over for the latest movie release, or that TV marathon you are currently engaged in with that special someone. Most people are surprised when they find out they are just glow sticks, and don’t be surprised if the idea starts to catch on.
If you want to brighten up your whole house, try adding a few to a transparent soap dispenser (the kids won’t want to stop washing their hands!). A fun idea for the restroom is to place some glow sticks above the medicine cabinet; this can tie together nicely if you are currently going with a color scheme for your friendly gathering.
Chemical glow products come in various sizes, ranging from the thin rope bracelet types (which are the ones used in the majority of the projects mentioned here), to the large baton style sticks that are often used for emergency purposes (or more authentic lightsaber fights), and for lighting your way in the dark when out camping. You have to make sure you go with the size that best suits the craft or lighting situation you plan to use at the time. You also want to take into consideration the length of time you need them to glow for. Most of the glow sticks tend to have a glow time of 10 – 12 hours, so be sure to plan accordingly before placing them in your basket - we wouldn’t want them to burn out just as our guests are arriving!
With a variety of uses, as well as the fun factor associated with them, glow sticks can provide hours of entertainment. Of course, on a more serious note it would be wise to keep some on hand in case of a power outage, and a few in your car for emergencies. When planning your next family function, try a few of these projects - they take very little prep time, and I think you’ll find them worth the effort. Whatever the craft attempted, you will find something that is fun for the little ones. So grab a pack of glow sticks and get crafting! Use your left-overs to take fun pictures while waving them around, or use them to spice up the lighting in your home. Whatever you plan to do with them, be safe and have fun!
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