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Should children ever be in the lab?

Should children ever be in the lab?

Have you ever brought your children to the lab, or found your colleagues’ kids running around unexpectedly?  A research lab is a risky place to bring a kid, considering all the potential hazards.  In the UK, Health and Safety laws explicitly forbid the presence of children in the lab, because it is such a dangerous environment.  In the US, the official policy is similar, but rarely enforced.  Because of this relaxed attitude to the rules, I have often run into boss’s and co-workers’ kids, in several different labs.  A few conscientious parents will bring activities: a DVD to watch in Mom’s office, or a game to play on Dad’s computer.  On the other hand, I once had a boss bring in his two toddlers and leave them in the break room with a couple of post-docs to watch them all day.  What to do if you’re unexpectedly stuck with kids in the lab to distract or entertain?  I’ve come up with a bag of tricks to keep them entertained so they don’t go poking their fingers where they don’t belong.  Here are a few fun and safe things for kids to play with in the lab:


  • Tube labels: they may look boring to you, but to a kid, they’re stickers!
  • Latex gloves: blow them up, draw faces on them, use them as a weirdly shaped “pockets” to hold treasures….the possibilities are endless.
  • Dry erase markers: young kids love dry erase boards, and can scribble happily for hours.
  • Post-its: these are always a big hit;  but be advised, you need to be willing to part with the whole pad!
  • Conical tubes: toss a couple of paperclips into a 50 mL tube to make a pretty awesome noisemaker.
  • Tinfoil: makes excellent hats in a pinch.
  • Inoculating loops: these are not a bad substitute for pick-up sticks, especially if you have them in a couple of colors.

What is your opinion on bringing kids into the lab?  Do you have tricks and tips to keep them entertained?

1 Comment

  1. Doug on March 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    printer paper = airplanes.

    Lots of printable coloring book pages on the web, if you have a large format printer, that kid will be stoked.

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