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Fun science experiment for kids: How to make silly putty

Serendipity, it happened! Well, that’s what scientists call it when an accidental science discovery is made. And that’s what James Wright called Silly Putty, when he discovered his new invention.

Brief History

But this rubbery substance was not a toy at first. During World War II, the United States was trying to find a solution to the high demand of rubber usage. General Electric was contracted to find an alternative to rubber. A chemist, James Wright, experimenting to seek a solution to synthetic rubber found Silly Putty. Yet, the fun toy was not widely accepted until a few years later.

It wasn’t until 1956 that Peter Hodgson commercialized Silly Putty. It began to sell in catalogs and soon became a popular toy. It is now widely available around the world. This novelty toy is mostly composed of silicone and boric acid. And, of course, it has the typical characteristic of bouncing and stretching to the limits.

Silly Putty is now available in many different colors for anyone to enjoy. Other playful uses are comic impressions. Place it on top of a piece of comic strip and gently lift up. And you have a comic imprint. Silly Putty is also available in color changing and glow-in-the-dark shapes. Have fun making silly but fun shapes and other cool experiments with this rubbery substance.

How to Make Silly Putty

Here, a cool experiment is done to simulate the texture of Silly Putty. This project is not recommended for children under 4 years old.

Materials:

  • Cornstarch
  • Regular white glue
  • Medium size bowl
  • Food coloring
  • Spoon
  • Water

Instructions:

  • Place old newspaper on the working surface
  • Mix 4 tbsp. of cornstarch with 2 tbsp. of glue inside a bowl
  • Gently add a few drops of water to the mixture
  • Keep adding water until it forms a consistency of pudding as seen in Figure 1
make silly putty

Figure 1

  • Add 2 or 3 drops of food coloring, until desired shade of color
  • Mix all ingredients together with a spoon
  • Add water if necessary
  • Place on non-stick aluminum foil or heavy-duty paper plate with coating
  • Form different letter shapes or numbers
make silly putty

Figure 2

Let children play (Figure 2) with this type of dough to develop different textures. You can also freeze it to see the effects of temperature. I don’t recommend heating or applying heat to this substance. Discard in a wastebasket after playing with it.

Recommended article:

“The stretchy, snappy, squishy science of Silly Putty” by Emily Costello. SuperScience Scholastics  2002. Pg. 12-13.

Barbara Mascareno

Barbara is an educational writer, teacher, and instructional designer. She loves to write K-12 education content, teaching strategies, bilingual education approaches, and foreign language.

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