If you have banned slime from your house please think again about fostering your child’s slime obsession…slime is an incredible chemistry project full of problem solving, testing, and evaluating and a wonderful sensory activity for older kids!
I’ve talked to so many kids who have told me slime is banned from their house. While I totally understand parents’ desire to keep a clean home and not end up with slime on the ceiling (yes, that happened to someone we know) banning it completely really denies kids such a great opportunity to learn.
Here are 5 reasons why kids should play with slime, slime safety facts, how to contain the mess, and how to clean slime off clothes, carpets and more.
5 Reasons Kids Should Play with Slime
1. Slime is science
Slime introduces kids to the scientific concepts of polymers, non-Newtonian fluids, viscosity and more. Slime is at a most basic level a chemistry experiment illustrating what happens when two substances combine and their molecular structure changes to form a new substance.
While science is often learned through books, hands-on experiments are the best way to foster of love of chemistry and science. No one ever understood a non-Newtonian fluid without actually holding it their hands and seeing how it behaves. Read our science of slime post (coming soon) to see just what is going on chemically with that batch of slime you mixed up.
2. Slime is a problem solving exercise
There are so many variables when making slime including outside temperature and humidity, how thoroughly it’s mixed, and ingredient ratios. Each batch of slime we have ever made has had to be fine tuned i.e. we start with a basic recipe and depending on some of the factors above we add more activator or glue, or even use lotion to soften up slime that is too hard.
Each batch of slime is a mini problem solving exercise: Does it need more activator, more glue, is it too sticky, too hard, what can be added to fix any of these problems? Kids will get very comfortable problem solving each and every time they make slime.
3. Slime illustrates math and ratios
Most slime recipes are based on a ratio of the amount of glue to the amount of activator. A ratio is a way to describe two numbers compared to one another. In many of our slime recipes we use a ratio of 2 parts glue to 1 part activator. In slime, ratios are helpful because you can size a recipe up or down if you know the ratio of the ingredients.
4. Slime is messy, tactile, sensory play for older kids
Let’s face it, once kids hit 2nd grade and above their opportunities for sensory play are vastly diminished. Sensory play is typically synonymous with toddlers and kids up to age 6, and there are so many benefit of sensory play for little ones (read more here) BUT there are also benefits for older kids as well.
Sensory play is important for motor development. Older kids are still developing their motor skills and can use all the practice they can get. I’ve worked with 3rd graders who still don’t feel comfortable cutting, so let’s keep up the fine motor activities for kids, they need them!
Sensory play also helps kids regulate their emotions and slime is one of the best calming activities I’ve ever seen. Kids can stretch and swirl and knead their slime for hours. We need to give them the opportunities for this kind of sensory, messy play that they so crave!
5. Mastery builds confidence
Confidence, perseverance, grit. These are traits parents want to instill in their kids and what better way to do it than to let them become experts at something they enjoy. We all know kids love slime and many became pretty obsessed with it. Unlike video games or social media slime is a hands-on, creative, and science filled activity, so why deny kids the opportunity of becoming slime masters?
We regularly nurture our younger children’s interests in things like dinosaurs, sharks, and trains, why do we suddenly want to curb the same enthusiasm for older kids? Let them become experts because it will build their confidence, especially for kids that may not have other activities where they feel they excel.
Is Slime Safe to Play with?
This is the top question I get from parents whenever I host parties or workshops. In a nutshell, yes, slime is perfectly safe for most kids.
The active ingredient in most slime recipes (with the exception of edible slimes) are derivatives of borax, a natural mineral, such as sodium tetraborate and boric acid. Borax is actually used as a soap and a disinfectant in many products. Besides Borax, the two most common activators used in slime making are liquid starch (Sta-Flo) which contains sodium tetraborate and saline solution which contains boric acid. So essentially the active ingredient in all these activators is the same.
Borax has been much maligned in recent years because of a severe case of chemical burns that occurred when a child played with the ingredients for slime making including Borax, for an extended period of time and not following recommended amounts. If you make the classic Borax version of slime you’ll see that it uses only a tablespoon of Borax to one cup of water.
After making slime for many years with hundreds of kids my personal safety rules are as follows:
- If your child has skin sensitivities, monitor their skin after they make and play with slime. If they develop any irritation then I would skip slimes made with borax and its derivatives and stick to edible slimes made with taste-safe ingredients.
- Follow recipe guidelines for how much activator to use. It’s important to understand just how much of each ingredient you need and stick more or less to that ratio. While slime making will always involve fine tuning and adding more activator or glue, a basic understanding of the approximate amounts of each ingredient is important.
- Monitor your kids when they make slime. As with any activity keep an eye on your kids to make sure they are working with the materials safely.
And if you want to learn more about slime safety check out this video by one of my favorite scientists Steve Spangler:
How to Contain a Slime Mess
My best suggestion on how to contain the mess that will inevitably ensue when your kids make slime, is to set some guidelines as to when and where you kids can make and play with slime and to be prepared. And check out Tip #3 for the secret to keeping slime from turning into a stringy mess. Here’s how to do it:
1. Create designated slime area at home
We have a designated area in our home and outside where it’s okay to make as much slime as you want. I also have off-limits places where slime is not allowed. Be sure to chose a location that has access to water and where the floor is cleanable. If you must work in an area with carpet, have a tarp handy to put down when slime making is going on.
2. Have supplies ready
The number one reason slime gets tracked through the house is because kids are looking for a place to store it or for towels to clean their hands and by the time they find you to ask the question, you’ve got trail of slime from their work area to you. If you set-up a designated area in your home or yard for slime making here’s what you should have on hand:
- Mixing bowls I get them at the dollar store. Have at least 6 so if you child and a friend go on a slime making bender and you don’t have to constantly wash out bowls.
- Trays All messes can be contained with the help of a large tray. IKEA has inexpensive ones or check your local dollar store! Be sure to wash and reuse them.
- Spoons and measuring cups I use 2 oz and 4 oz cups I picked up at the restaurant supply store. They are great for slime making, can be washed, rinsed and reused, and match the ratios used in many slime recipes.
- Storage containers I also pick these up at the restaurant supply store (see pic below). Once the slime is made and played with, tell your kids it has to go in the sealed containers.
- Storage Bin If there’s a place to put slime and supplies away quickly, you’ve solved half your mess problems.
- A work surface you can cover or clean My daughter actually prefers making slime on the floor but I have sheet vinyl and it’s really easy to clean. Wherever your child makes slime be sure it’s somewhere you won’t be worried about if it get messy.
- Paper towels You MUST wipe slime bits and pieces off hands before washing them completely or you will end up with a clogged sink. Make sure kids do a hand wipe before they get cleaned-up.
3. Movement Matters
Because slime is a non-Newtonian fluid, pressure changes the way it behaves. Younger children inevitably move their hands very slowly as they explore slime and they usually end up getting it all over themselves. The slower movement means the slime behaves like a liquid and it will be very stringy.
I always remind kids to work with slime quickly and to move it around in their hands like they are making pizza dough. It sticks to the hands less when you handle it in this way and you will avoid stringy slime getting all over clothes and yes, hair.
How to Clean up Slime from Clothing, Carpet and more
NOTE: If you have granite tables or tile I recommend making slime far away from it! Vinegar is the primary ingredient for cleaning slime BUT it damages granite! I had a friend clean up a slime mess on her counter using vinegar only to damage her countertop!
- If you get slime on clothing, carpets, floors, even hair, the best way to remove it is with white vinegar. And because it stinks kids will learn quickly not to get it everywhere again! My daughter got it in her hair one time and after using vinegar to remove it she was sure to pull her hair back thereafter.
- To remove slime that has dried on hard surfaces like tile, pour vinegar on the tile and let it sit until the slime softens. Then use a paint scraper to remove it.
- When you get slime on clothing, soak the affected area in vinegar for a minute then rub the slime to dissolve it. Wash and dry as usual.
- The quicker you get to it, the easier slime is to remove! Slime that has been allowed to dry on clothing is harder to remove. If you find dry, caked slime on your children’s clothes soak the affected area in vinegar until it loosens, then rub it off, and wash the garment. Please note this does not always work so read the last tip…
- Never let kids play with slime in their best clothes! Have them change into play clothes that you don’t mind getting messy!
Are you ready to make some slime?
Alright now that you are feeling better about fostering your child’s love of slime what recipes should they try? Here are two helpful links:
Now go forth and encourage you young scientists!
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