Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Mad Science Monday: Arctic Slime!

Did you really think we'd make it over a year into this blog and never have a slime post? Neither did I! If you grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, you probably remember begging your parents to dole out a few bucks for a container of Nickelodeon Gak so you could squish it, stretch it, smash it, and of course, make a lovely fart sound squeezing it back into that tiny container. And if your mother was a preschool teacher, probably she reluctantly gave in at some point, but also bought a box of Borax, some school glue, got out the handy ol' box of food coloring and showed you how to make your own. My preschool students over the last decade are completely unfamiliar with phrases like "you've been slimed!" or "Gak" as a name-brand, but, by golly, these kids will still know slime. In fact, making slime became such a fad over the last couple of years that school glue started going on sale in economy sized containers in big box stores and craft supply stores alike. End caps stocked bottles of sparkly school glue so you didn't need to add any glitter of your own. The Great Borax Controversy emerged after reports of alleged chemical burns occurred as a result of children concocting mass quantities of slime under no adult supervision. But never fear, great marketing has you covered and "safe alternatives" like contact lens solution and baking soda were placed on those store end caps in lieu of evil Borax (which all contain, surprise, surprise, none other than the infamous slime-inducing ingredient, boric acic)...

Folks, I'm here to say that in a lifetime of making slime, I've never had a chemical burn. That said, as a child I was assisted and supervised by an adult and as an adult, I assist and supervise my children. Common sense comes into play so that play can occur safely. If you are uncomfortable using Borax, you can make slime with alternative ingredients and a simple internet search will pull up a variety of recipes. I am sticking to the original for now and we definitely wash our hands when play time ends! Slime is a unique and incredible sensory experience. A non-newtonian fluid, it takes on the properties of a liquid when left to its own devices, but under pressure assumes the status of a solid becoming dough like, stretchy and bouncy. And yes, if you squeeze it in just the right manner, air bubbles that form in the mixture pop producing an ever-so-lovely farting sound!

Somehow, I never made slime with S before (I know!) and Winter Break was the perfect opportunity. With near-Arctic temperatures outside, Arctic Slime play indoors was the perfect way to stay warm and cozy. Here's the standard recipe I follow to make slime at home with some optional add-ins to make a winter-themed version:

Arctic Slime

Ingredients & Materials:
  • mixing bowls, spoon, teaspoon & measuring cups (I have a dollar store set of these tools set aside for science recipes and play)
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) white school glue (Elmer's brand or any brand is fine)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Borax powder plus 1 cup water
  • light blue food coloring and silver glitter* (optional add-ins--you can add the color of your choice, use paint if you prefer, sequins, other colors of glitter--the options are limitless!)
  • optional play tools and accessories including cookie cutters in winter shapes, a plastic knife (this is S's favorite), Arctic animal figurines, glass gem "ice bricks," and anything else you can think of and have on hand!

Gather your materials and little helpers! Begin by combining half a cup of glue and water in your mixing bowl and mix to incorporate both ingredients. We worked over our sensory table as it is the perfect height for S, the place where play would take place and also a perfect way to catch and contain inevitable splatters! This is a great time to add in your color and glitter if you choose.

Next, using a smaller mixing bowl or cup (we used a disposable cup) combine 1 teaspoon of Borax with 1 cup of water, mixing until dissolved. Slowly combine mixtures into your larger mixing bowl, noticing that slime immediately begins to form! Keep mixing with your spoon, but you'll want to dig your hands in before long to really knead in the ingredients. It may seem like it's not quite taking on that full slime-like texture at first. Don't worry! Just keep kneading and the pressure applied by your hands will eventually cause slime to form. This dough is quite forgiving! If you do happen to have excess water even after all this, you can simply pour it off. 

S is somewhat sensory sensitive with messy play and was hesitant at first. I am also somewhat sensory sensitive with messy play and I know how important it is for both of us to join in the fun! While many children do love to immediately dig in to new textures and experiences, some are hesitant. If you are also hesitant or unwilling to get your hands a bit dirty, expect those little ones to follow suit. On the other hand, if you are willing to get right in there with them, one finger at a time and then your whole hand and then both hands, so, too, will your little ones follow suit! Sure enough, within minutes, S was wrist deep in Arctic Slime dough. 

I introduced it at first with no tools or add-ins. Next, I offered a few cookie cutters in snowflake and circle shapes. S asked for a plastic knife as well. We observed the imprint a cookie cutter left in the slime when flat and how it spread and disappeared. He observed how he could "cut" a slime cookie and use a plastic knife to poke it out.

I love using "real science language" with little ones. I told S about "non-newtonian fluids" and we enjoyed "catching" the slime as it slowly stretched and dripped down from my hand...

We added in some plastic Arctic animal friends and S chose a little person as well, playing with how they made footprints, covering them with "blankets" of slime and all the while enjoying the sight of our handprints in the flattened piles of slime in the bin...

This really captured S's attention for a while! Y was fast asleep in the living room and this was just what we needed to keep us (more quietly) playing in the kitchen. When it was clean up time, S wanted to help! I stored the slime in a ziplock bag and popped it in the fridge. This keeps it fresh longer and also makes it nice and chilly when we are ready for some more Arctic play! We moved the sensory bin close to the sink and I filled it with warm soapy water for S to help wash the toys and cookie cutters. 
My little disclaimer here is that it was a little tricky to get the slime out of those snowflake shaped nooks and crannies on our cookie cutters. I was glad to have S's help! Nonetheless, we had a great time. He even asked to play with it again that evening and his Tatty joined in the fun, too.

Well, there you have it. You've been slimed! Happy Mad Science Monday and as always, happy playing!

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