for the LOVE of a mess ~ cornstarch and water

This post originally appeared on February 9, 2011.

Okay, this may be a stretch, but ever since Rachelle from Tinkerlab posted her goopy cornstarch I have been trying to work it into a lesson plan.  Of course Little M does LOVE a mess. . . so maybe I’m not that far off!

This activity is not new to me, but Rachelle gave me some new ideas and inspired me to pull out this old favorite again.

what you need:  cornstarch ~ plastic container ~ water

I used a plastic pool in the backyard, but this can easily be done at the kitchen table or on a wipe-able indoor floor space.   I filled a plastic container with spoons, cups, a scapula, and two containers of cornstarch.
Big M dumped the dry cornstarch into the container right away. . .
and then ran to grab a car.
The texture of plain cornstarch is so cool, I think they would have been happy to use it dry.  Unfortunately the wind was picking up and the cornstarch was flying.  I gave them water, in small increments.   The thing with cornstarch is that if you add too much water it will just dissolve, so make sure to add it slowly.
If you have never tried cornstarch and water, it is so neat.  When you hold it, and press it, the substance feels like a solid. . .

corn starch and water
but if you let it rest for a minute, it acts as a liquid.

Make sure you have a cup of coffee or a good book to read. . .this one will entertain your little one for a while!

Questions(to ask your little ones):  “What do you think will happen when we add the water?”  “Can you pick up the spoon quickly?  Why or Why not?”  “Press the cornstarch and water in your hand.  How does it feel? Now loosen your grip and relax your hand.  What is happening to the cornstarch and water?”

Tips(to maximize learning):  1.  Even toddlers can do this one, you may want to add the water first if your kids are really little so they don’t breath in the powder.  The textures and sensory experience will be wonderful! 2.  I wondered out loud what would happen if we left some cornstarch and water out.  Would it go back to powder?  Little M seemed interested so we set aside a bowl to check in the morning.   3.  When you clean up dissolve the mixture completely before putting it down the drain.  *** I have never had a problem with my drains, but if you are worried about it let the mixture come back to solid then toss it in the trash.***

And of course she LOVED this mess to its fullest!

How do you use cornstarch and water?


  1. I love messy play, and it fits in with my therapy theme. I am visiting from the SITS group. I am going to tweet this activity.

  2. Oh my goodness! They are so engaged 🙂 I love the photo of the gooey starch falling off the spoon. It captures the texture perfectly! And throwing the kids and all into a big pool is brilliant. You must live near me to be enjoying such amazing weather in the middle of winter.

  3. That’s a lovely post! Love the pic of the dripping cornstarch and the 2 totally absorbed kiddos. Hmm…I wonder if it’s something my cat would be interested in to! 😉
    Dropping in from the 31dbbb group at SITS.

  4. Wonderful! My kids would love that! We will have to try that once the weather warms up and we can do it outside.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. I have used this with science summer camps and with my own kids (even at a science birthday party). We call it oobleck and enhance the experience with a reading of the Dr. Seuss book. It is wonderful stuff that I doubt I will ever get tired of.

  6. What a neat idea! I had no idea this happened. No idea. I’ve learned something here! Too cool. Now I’m gonna have to try it for myself.

    Stopping by from 31DBBB!

  7. Love this – I am so going to try it with my Toddler – I know he would LOVE the mess!!

    Cornstarch is also so great for heat rash – which we get quite a bit out here! Thanks – stopping by for SITS

  8. Have you read the Dr. Seuss ‘Bartholomew and the Oobleck’? It compliments this activity perfectly and gives your cornstarch and water mixture a name. You will want a little green food coloring too. 🙂

  9. My daughter and I did this earlier tonight and we had a blast! We ended up playing with a bunch of playdough scoopers and toys too, and adding water-color paint (that comes in the tubes-not the discs) and she had a blast trying to get the colors to mix in. They end up just looking swirly and marbled. She (okay, we) also really got a kick out of playing with one of those puffy/fluff/fur ball things in it because she would drop it in and it would sound like a rock. Maybe cotton balls would work, too?

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