On June 24, 2023, I hosted a celebration in honor of publishing my first book Simple Positive Play at the Library. I invited friends and family to my house for appetizers in an Open House style celebration and requested that guests bring cornstarch to create a large container of oobleck.
Have you ever seen Emily’s Wonder Lab? I think it is an amazing show that breaks down the science of different experiments and demonstrates the scientific method with young people. In one episode, there is an entire swimming pool filled with oobleck and the kids attempt to walk across it, keeping in mind the principles of the oobleck.
What is oobleck? It’s a Non-Newtonian fluid (like ketchup) made of 2 parts cornstarch and 1 part water. Once it’s mixed, it becomes a substance that can both run through your fingers and seem hard as a rock.
I did not create a bunch of oobleck before guests arrived. This was a kid-friendly event and, since it was the kids of family and friends, I was familiar with doing experiments like this with them either in class or at Simple Positive Play. They like to help and are very creative.
As soon as I poured the first 2 cups of cornstarch into the container, hands immediately went in. Hands went into the water stream as I poured the cup of water. I slowly added more cups of cornstarch and water, keeping in mind the proportions.
I was not always the adult monitoring this project but I was the only one to add to the mixture. There were times where kids were able to mix and play with smaller amounts of oobleck at a time. One of the times I came back to add more oobleck, I watched as kids had started to put their feet in the mix. By the end of the event, kids were pouring oobleck on their legs and arms. It looks crazy messy but the cleanup was a breeze! We were able to use the garden hose to clean off the kids and the patio and the kids seemed to enjoy a refreshing splash of water on a mid-90 degree day.
Things I learned:
Kids enjoyed the activity!
A bigger container would allow for more kids to interact
A bigger container would create a bigger mess and need dedicated facilitators for safety
Starting with small containers on a child height table would be beneficial. It would allow kids to potentially customize their creation with color. Adding color to the large mixture could potentially get chaotic
Preparing parents for the event would be more hospitable. I mentioned in the invite that I wanted to make a giant concoction of oobleck but it might have been helpful to suggest bringing a towel or an extra set of clothes.
Things I knew but could’ve know more
Oobleck cannot be washed down the sink. I purchased a large plastic container and placed it on a shower curtain. When we were finished, we simply threw it all away. I probably could have saved the container. On the blog Dispose It Well, they explain a few other ways of disposing the oobleck. DO NOT POUR IT DOWN YOUR SINK! It may clog your drains if you don’t dilute it.
If I do it again, I think I’ll be more intentional with the event so my focus can be a little more dedicated to the activity. The kids and parents were fine but I’d make sure that we set up a few ground rules and communicate expectations.
Supplies for a mini or a large oobleck party:
Surface protection (I used a shower curtain. You can use a plastic tablecloth or trash bag)
Pitcher of Water (for easy adding)
Water hose (for cleanup outside)
Food dye (optional)
2 parts cornstarch
1 part water