Make Silly Putty

Activity Type: STEM Science

Objective

Learn about polymers. Learn about the popular toy Silly Putty (a polymer) and make some silly putty with glue and liquid starch.

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Lesson

About Silly Putty

  • Silly Putty is one of the best selling toys in history.
  • Silly Putty was invented by accident during World War II when the government was looking for alternatives for synthetic rubber.
  • Silly Putty was packaged in plastic eggs because it was released to the market around Easter.
  • Silly Putty is a liquid/solid because it can bounce, shatter, or stretch depending on how it’s being manipulated.
  • Silly Putty is a hit with kids because it can lift pictures and words off newsprint and be stretched to form funny shapes.

Instructions

  • Give each child a small paper bowl.
  • Pour 1/4 cup (or your preferred amount) of Elmer’s Glue All (*be sure to use this brand) into each bowl.
  • Allow each child to add 3 or 4 drops of food coloring into the glue and then mix it up with a plastic spoon. Add more food coloring for a brighter color.
  • Pour 1/4 cup (or an equal part as the glue) of Purex Sta-Flo Liquid Starch (*be sure to use this brand) and stir.
  • Let sit for about 5 minutes.
  • Place the silly putty on a paper plate or piece of wax paper and knead the substance for 5 minutes.
  • Now you’re ready to play!
    • Roll into a ball and bounce.
    • Flatten on newsprint and see the picture appear on the silly putty.
    • Pull it apart quickly and see how it rips apart into 2 pieces without stretching.

How Does It Work?

  • Elmer’s glue has an ingredient called polyvinyl acetate. Polyvinyl acetate is a polymer.
  • A polymer is a chemical compound that is made of small molecules that are arranged in a chain-like structure to form a larger molecule.
  • When you mix the glue and starch, the starch molecules create links between the polyvinyl acetate molecules. As this continues to occur, the mixture turns into a new polymer substance.
  • Silly Putty can behave like a solid or a liquid depending on how it is handled.

Cost

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1 Star = less than $.50 per project
2 Stars = $.50 - $1.00 per project
3 Stars = more than $1.00 per project

Difficulty

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1 Star = Easy (No Assist K-5)
2 Stars = Moderate (Possible Assist K-2, No Assist 3-5)
3 Stars = Hard (Assist K-2, Possible Assist 3-5)

Time to Complete

30 minutes

Materials List

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We provide Amazon links to the materials. These links are not affiliate links (in other words, we do not make money when you purchase via these links). These links are included so you can SEE the product. If you do purchase through Amazon, please be aware of the quantities, as the quantities on our links might not be appropriate for you. Also, the links do not necessarily represent the cheapest prices. You may want to consider searching Amazon for even cheaper prices or purchasing items locally (we have lots of luck with dollar stores).

Meets Common Core Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.3

    Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

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