“OOBLECK” or “GAK” is the term usually applied to the sticky, oozy, non-Newtonian fluid created by mixing together cornstarch and water. And playing with it really never gets old. This activity is a creative twist on typical oobleck play that allows kids to use the substance as both a canvas and a medium to create colorful works of art!
LEARN SCIENCE VOCABULARY:
States of Matter – There are 3 states of matter that everyone is familiar with: solids, liquids, and gasses. They each have different characteristics. For example, solids keep their shapes, liquids flow and drip into containers, and gasses expand to fill the volume of the room. (There is also a fourth state of matter called plasma, but it only occurs naturally inside super-hot stars.)
Non-Newtonian Fluid – Certain types of liquids that also have characteristics of solids: for example, cream becomes thicker with continuous stirring, or oobleck feels like a solid if you smack it. (Other examples of non-Newtonian fluids are honey and tomato sauce, that both get thinner as they are vigorously stirred.)
- Bowl and spoon for mixing
- Tray, lid, or plate to hold your oobleck canvas (I used the plastic lids that come with lunchmeat containers.)
- Washable paint and brushes
- Plain paper (optional)
HOW TO MAKE IT:
- Mix up your oobleck by combining 1 cup cornstarch with 3/4 cup water. This is a bit thicker than traditional oobleck recipes, but the paint will thin out your solution over time.
- Pour a thin layer of oobleck into your tray or lid.
- Provide your child with paint and a brush and watch what they create! They will have fun painting on the surface of the oobleck and also dragging the brush through it to swirl the colors. They can stick their fingers in the ooze and make handprints on the paper as well. I set the plain paper off to the side, and my son eventually began dipping his fingers into the colored oobleck and creating a drip painting on the paper. (This activity is a good way to practice letter writing skills with your preschooler as well!)
THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT:
Oobleck itself provides a great opportunity for toddlers and young children to learn through sensory play. They can let it drip through their fingers or chop it apart with a spoon. By introducing paints and brushes to oobleck exploration, we are adding the “ART” component to a classic science “STEM” activity. This gives kids a chance to be creative and manipulate the different substances to discover on their own. For example, my 3-year-old son was marveling at how the oobleck dried quickly on the paper and became hard and powdery while the paint remained wet. He used this new discovery as he designed his artwork using both mediums.
As more paint is added to the oobleck canvas, it begins to lose some of its non-Newtonian fluid characteristics and behaves more like a regular liquid. We experimented with this as we did handprints on our paper, first with plain oobleck, and then with the mixture as it got more and more diluted with paint.