Thursday, February 5, 2015

winter's dumb. here's a fun toddler activity: (not?) goop.

It was a whopping -5 degrees this morning. NEGATIVE FIVE. Not ideal for playing outdoors, or functioning in general. (Side note: Saw an ad for a Sesame Street episode about hibernation; raging jealousy washed over me. We really ought to consider hibernating, humans.) So we went to the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum this morning and threw every ball and doll down the toddler slide, licked some transmittable diseases off the blocks, and stalked all the crying babies so we could say wah wah wah in their faces. 

When Rowan woke up from her afternoon nap, I set up a quick activity for her - one of my very favorites from my teaching days. I think it's called goop or ooblek or shmoop or something? No, it's not goop...crap, I can't remember. I always just called it "corn starch and water" (early childhood degree officially revoked). Anyway, it's cheap, easy to set up, edible if necessary, and a great sensory experience. Check it out:

As far as materials and cost go, it doesn't get much easier (or cheaper). You need:

  • A tray (since a confined surface is preferable...my tray is from a teacher friend of mine, who got it donated to her from Qdoba - thanks, Pammie!!)
  • Corn starch (I used about a quarter of a small box)
  • Water (a cup or two)
  • A towel (to contain the mess a little)
  • Optional: food coloring (I skipped this step to avoid staining her clothes); toy utensils/cups/plates (for scooping and pouring); small plastic animals or cars (to drag through the mixture)

If you've never played with this stuff before, you're going to love it. It's sensory heaven. Basically, when you add water to the corn starch, you end up with a weird substance that isn't quite solid and isn't quite liquid. You can pick up a chunk of it, but then it slides through your fingers like a liquid. Rowan loved it when I dripped it onto her hands and arms.

She used her plastic knife, spoon, and plate a little bit...

...but mostly she liked plunging her hands in, dragging her fingers down the tray, and then lifting her arms to watch the (not?) goop drip everywhere:

Final rundown of this activity:

:: Cost: 99 cents (for the box of corn starch)
:: Target age: Any age. Seriously. Safe for small babies, soothing for grown-ups.
:: Set-up time: Less than five minutes
:: Time she spent playing: About a half hour - we had to stop for dinner, but she would've played longer
:: Need for supervision: Pretty high, if you want to contain the mess/prevent mass consumption
:: Clean-up time: About five minutes to take off her pants, rinse off her hands and feet (no soap needed), rinse off the toys, and do a quick sweep. I let the towel and tray dry out for about an hour before scraping off the excess corn starch into the trash, since you don't want to put too much (not?) goop down your drain.
:: Mess factor: Medium to high, depending on your kid...and your tolerance. Rowan kept everything pretty much on the towel, and we had to stop for dinner before she discovered she could transport the (not?) goop to any other locations. It looks worse than it is, since it's really easy to brush off/sweep up the powder once it dries. I tossed her clothes right in with her other laundry after shaking them out a little. This is as messy as she got:

She had tons of fun, especially for an activity I only thought about forty-five minutes before dinner. In fact, it went much more smoothly than dinner itself, where she cried and cried because I wouldn't let her have a third huge helping of Amy's Spanish Rice & Red Beans soup with quinoa (???). Girrrl!

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