Activity Bag Fun: Flubber!

When I was in high school, I was required to do volunteer in the school or community a certain number of hours a year.  I chose to volunteer at OMSI, the local science museum, every Sunday morning —  a very chill time in terms of number of visitors, most of the time.  I worked in the kiddie section, and got to do fun things like set up water play structures, wander around with snakes and rats poking out of my official green and purple vest, and every morning, make a big batch of flubber, for the kids to play with on the activity tables.

I am told flubber is similar to “Gak”, which you can buy in stores (or at least used to, I haven’t seen it for awhile).  You play with it similar to playdough, but its waaaaaay more fun than that.  Its rubbery, its stretchy, it sloooooowly oozes to take the shape of whatever container you put it in (or if its not in a container, it eventually drips off the table and onto the floor, ha ha).   It is NOT the messy cornstarch and water experiment you tried in elementary school (which I’ve always called “Ooblek”).   Its quite its own thing, pretty indescribable unless you feel it.  And when you feel it, you will want to play with it more.  Its (addictively) fun!

Its also pretty easy to make.  Its made of four simple ingredients.  White Elmers glue (regular, NOT “school glue”, and probably also not other generic brands), Borax detergent, food coloring, and water.  Thats it!  Its most economical to get a gallon of Elmers for this — it takes enough to make it worthwhile.  Borax is found in the laundry detergent aisle.   Making it is actually a pretty cool science experiment, as well — you are mixing two liquids (water and glue, water and Borax) that when they meet, congeal into a solid-like substance.  A polymer.  Thats all I remember from my science geek days, I’m afraid!

Here is the recipe straight from my now-ancient OMSI Cookbook:

Flubber 

  • 2 cups Elmer’s White Glue
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • food coloring (I use a lot for bright colors)
  • 3 teaspoons Borax (I’ve found 2.5 works better!!!)
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water (make sure its warm enough to help dissolve the soap!)

In a large bowl, blend glue and 1 1/2 cups water. Add food coloring to desired brightness.

In  a separate bowl, combine Borax with 1 1/3 cups water and stir to dissolve.

Pour two mixtures together, and immediately start kneading with your hands.  It feels funny, but do it!   The OMSI recipe says to take the flubber out of the bowl now, leaving the remaining water behind.  I don’t do this!!!  This makes the it a lot more stiff (that and adding the full 3 t’s of Borax).  Leave the flubber in there and just keep kneading it until most, if not all, the water absorbs into it.  Then it gets nice and stretchy and pliable and ready to enjoy.

A few things to keep in mind:  This is not good for eating!  I’m not sure if its officially “non-toxic” due to the Borax, though the amount in it is small.  But yuck!  Its pretty gross and I think they’d  just spit it out if they tasted it (mine did!) but just keep that in mind if you have mouthy toddlers.

Also, while it comes off most things pretty easily, if flubber sits on cloth/clothes for very long it starts to absorb into the fibers and is very hard to get out (eventually its just hardened glue). This doesn’t happen a lot, since it holds together pretty well, but I do have to sometimes scrape it off clothes and then pour boiling water on it (the fresher the better) to get out the remaining bit. If you have some sort of waterproof paintshirt that helps a lot.  Don’t let this stop you from trying it — its really not very messy!

Also, just store the flubber in a large ziplock bag or airtight container — should last a few weeks or more, depending on usage.

Have fun, & happy flubbering!

 

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