Messing with a batch of oobleck offers both a rich sensory experience and a chance to play around with STEM learning. Because of its unique properties, busy little brains and fingers will be drawn to explore oobleck.
What’s so cool about oobleck? It is a non-newtonian fluid–which means that, unlike newtonian fluides (like water) it’s viscosity varies based on applied stress. That means sometimes it behaves like a liquid and other times it behaves like a solid. For example, if you whack a bucket full of oobleck with your fist your knuckles will splat against the surface while if you hold it in your hands it will slowly melt and drip away.12
Many adults will like that oobleck is one of the easiest ‘messy’ sensory activities to clean up. It looks like it would leave a mess most adults would not want to deal with, but clean up is pretty simple–more on that later.
It’s simple–start by adding the cornstarch to a largish container. If you want to add coloring, add it to the measuring cup and then fill to the One Cup indicator–you only want one cup total liquid.
Now, slowly pour the water into the container while stirring with a spoon or your hand.
If the everything is perfect, your mixture will be perfect. When you hold a solid hunk of oobleck in your hand it will melt and run through your fingers.
Everything is rarely perfect. You’ll probably need to add a bit more cornstarch or water.
If it doesn’t clump together in your hand, it’s too watery and you need to add cornstarch. Just add another tablespoon full of cornstarch and mix. If it’s still to runny, repeat the process until it’s just right.
On the other hand, if it doesn’t ‘melt’ in your hand when you pick it up, you need to add more water. In this case, add a tablespoon of water, mix, and test–repeating as necessary.
Want to make different sized batches? No problem, just focus on the 2 parts cornstarch to 1 part water ratio.
For example, mix up a small batch (1 cup cornstarch and 1/2 cup water) if you want to fill a cereal bowl or, if you want to fill a wading pool, try 2 fifty-five gallon barrels of cornstarch and 1 fifty-five gallon barrel of water.
Some additional things to consider:
Like we said in the opening paragraph, oobleck looks super-messy but it is pretty easy to clean up. Your basic cleanup tools are warm water, rags or paper towels, and a broom or Vacuum.
You can wipe up spills on solid surfaces like tile, concrete, or wood floors right away with a rag/paper towel and a bit of warm water.
What about carpet, rugs, curtains, or clothing?
It’s almost as simple. The first step is to be patient and wait for the oobleck to dry.
Dry oobleck easily brushes off clothing or curtains and can be swept or vacuumed off rugs and carpets.
The only real cleanup concern when it comes to oobleck is the coloring you use. Some coloring are more likely to stain than others. If your oobleck leaves a stain on fabrics, washing usually takes care of the problem. Here at Explorations Early Learning Intergalactic Headquarters, we’ve found that coloring extracted from washable markers is less likely to stain than food coloring or liquid water colors.
This simple concoction is well worth the time and effort. From sensory awareness to understanding non-newtonian fluids kids will learn a lot from the experience–and remember they learn a lot from helping make things like oobleck too.