It’s almost time for Halloween, and here is an experiment that is as creepy as it is cool. Of course, it will also help your child become a good thinker. But you don’t have to tell them that.
Science is all about making observations and figuring out how things work. Simple, hands-on experiments that begin with, “What do you think will happen?” or end with, “Can you make it happen differently?” to get children’s minds in the right place.
The following easy-to-set-up experiment involves a liquid that doesn’t always act like a liquid. This special term is called a “non-Newtonian fluid.” That means it is a substance that at times will flow like water, and then when you add pressure it will behave like a solid. The very small pieces that make up the substance are made of really long chains, sort of like spaghetti. When pressure is added, the chains stick together like a solid, but when you let it go, it acts like a liquid.
This is also a good experiment to talk about chemical changes. A chemical change is when the material you start with has vastly different properties than what you end up with. Sometimes chemical changes can be accompanied by heat, light, sound, or a gas… but not in this experiment. You will start with glue and end up with a “slime” that no longer exhibits the original properties of glue.
Safety warning: Borax is an eye irritant, so please supervise this experiment and make sure your child washes his or her hands after completion.
- A bottle of Elmer’s Glue,
- Borax (found in the laundry section in the grocery store)
- a medium bowl
- a cup
- food coloring.
- Pour a four ounce bottle of Elmer’s glue into a medium bowl
- Ask your child to describe how glue looks and behaves
- Add a drop or two of food coloring to the glue
- Mix a tablespoon of borax into a cup of warm water
- Mix a little of the borax solution into the glue
- You will immediately start to see the glue thicken
- Keep stirring the mixture while adding the borax until it is at the desired texture (less borax makes it more slimy, more borax makes it rubbery)
- Take the substance out of the bowl and experiment! It will flow like slime at times, but when you add pressure it will act like a solid
- Ask your child how the “glue” now acts compared to when you started: this is the evidence of a chemical reaction
- This is a simple experiment, but with really great effects and good scientific concepts. What kid doesn’t like to play with slime? Especially one he or she made. If they want to keep the substance, put it into a sealable plastic bag.
The experimenting doesn’t have to be over yet, however. In fact, this is when the science really starts to happen. Children will want to experiment with different amounts of glue and borax. They might have a slime “race” to see which one can flow the fastest or slowest down a book. Whatever they do, it’s in the name of science, and by encouraging their experimenting you will be furthering their scientific development.
Steve Davala is a middle school science teacher who likes to write. He’s got two kids of his own and subjects them to these science activities as guinea pigs.