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Simple Science Experiments: Slime Time

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 learning from observations and figuring out how things work along the way. Simple, hands-on experiments that begin with, “What do you think will happen?” or end with, “Can you make it happen differently?” can bring the budding, curious minds of children into a fun place.

Overview:

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, but will behave like a solid if you add pressure to it. 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 has occurred when the material you start with has vastly different properties than the one 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.

Materials:

  • 4 oz. bottle of Elmer’s glue
  • Borax (found in the laundry section in the grocery store); Safety warning: Borax is an eye irritant, so please supervise this experiment and make sure your child washes his or her hands after completion.
  • Medium bowl
  • Cup
  • Spoon
  • Water
  • Food coloring

Procedure:

  1. Pour Elmer’s glue into a bowl. Ask your child to describe how glue looks and behaves.
  2. Add a drop or two of food coloring.
  3. Mix a tablespoon of borax into a cup of warm water. Then, 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 has reached the desired texture (less borax makes it slimier, more borax makes it rubbery).
  4. Take the substance out of the bowl and experiment! It will flow like slime at times, but when you add pressure it, the slime will act like a solid. Ask your child how the “glue” now acts compared to when you started…FYI, this is the evidence of a chemical reaction.

This simple experiment offers great effects and good scientific concepts. What kid doesn’t like to play with slime? Especially one he or she has made. If they want to keep the substance, put it into a sealable plastic bag. The experimenting doesn’t have to be over yet; in fact, this is when the science really starts to happen. Children can experiment with different amounts of glue and borax. Consider having a slime “race” to see which one can flow the fastest or slowest down the side of a book. By encouraging your young scientists to experiment, you are furthering their development.

Steve Davala is a middle school science teacher who likes to write. He’s has two kids and subjects them to these science activities as guinea pigs. 

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