Blackberry & lavender Oobleck

How to make it, and how it provides a multitude of learning opportunities for your child.

What is Oobleck?

Oobleck is a non Newtonian fluid which means that it is a liquid that doesn't follow the law of viscosity. In a sense, Oobleck is a liquid that doesn't act like a normal liquid. If you apply pressure to water it reacts with movement, it splashes or ripples or slushes around. Oobleck is different, once pressure is applied to it, its particles start to lock together. It becomes solid like in nature and is resistance to movement. Even hitting it with a spoon won't penetrate it. However when you stop applying pressure to the Oobleck it stops mimicking a solid and returns to its liquid state. Take a ball of it in your hand, roll it around continuously. The constant activity creates a pressure so the liquid will continue to act like a solid, but if you open your hand the ball will act like a liquid once again. It will start to run through your fingers like a beautiful ice cream melting in the sun.

The benefits of Oobleck

At a fundamental level Oobleck is sensorial in nature, it encourages children to explore its textures and mediums through tactile and visual interaction. This type of sensorial exposure is important for young children as it helps them to gain information from their surrounding environment. This in turn enables children to create the neurological pathways needed for information processing and response to stimuli.

By pulling, grabbing, rolling and releasing the Oobleck, children start to develop and refine their fine motor skills. This development and refinement of their muscles allows children to gain control over their muscles and so learn to manipulate the Oobleck. Through this manipulation and by playing with Oobleck repeatedly for a period of time, children will start to build up their levels of concentration. Concentration is a key component to enable children to go on to further learning and develop the abilities for complex or abstract thinking.

Oobleck also helps to enhance a childs language skills. Young children will gain a basic understanding of what the words solid, liquid, soft and hard mean. You can also use this opportunity to ask the children if they would like to describe how it feels to hold it? if they like it? if they think its soothing or gooey? This type of conversation helps children be aware of what and how they feel physically, and emotionally in the moment, and provides them with the opportunities to reflect and articulate these thoughts.

In my experience within the classroom, Oobleck is a very social activity. Children often huddle around it, each child trying their best to make the ball remain solid and laughing at each others attempts to do so. They will talk to one another about the sensation of Oobleck, how it feels and then discover how hard it is to pull out of the bowl or what happens if you flick it. Together they will make decisions about who will play with the Oobleck next or solve problems like how to get the Oobleck from one bowl to another without spilling a drop.These interactions with one another help children develop their social skills. They learn about turn taking and patience and listening. These basic interactions create the foundations needed for children to build healthy relationships with peers throughout their lives and are necessary for the further development of their social skills .

The recipe:

  • 2 cups of cornflour

  • 1cup of water

  • a few drops of food dye (optional)

  • I put blackberries into it and let my little man squash them which released its juice and created a natural dye. (optional)

  • I also added dried lavender which added an extra sensory dimension to the experience.(optional)

What you will need:

  • A bowl or some people like to use a shallow rectangular box to contain the mess(some people call this a sensory bin).I personally don't mind the mess so I usually just empty mine out onto the table.

  • A spoon for mixing

  • Some utensils for the children to play with.

  • Gloves if you don't personally want to get dirty or if the child is nervous about sensory sensations or getting dirty

How to make it:

  • Place two cups of corn flour into a bowl

  • I combine the food colouring with the water if you are using dye but you don't have to

  • Slowly mix the water into the corn flour and keep stirring until the water is gone.

How to check if its right

Grab the Oobleck in your hand. Remember it should act as both a solid and a liquid. If it remains a solid once you release it then add a few spoons of water. If when you grab it, it remains water like, then add a spoon or two of corn flour. Check the video beside you to get an idea of the consistency it should be.

Oobleck extensions

There are many other ways of enhancing this activity.

  • You can use essential oils and food dye to enhance the sensory experience for your child for example a purple lavender scented gloop.

  • It could tie in with other lessons like learning the colour purple

  • You can theme it with the seasons: Spring might be green and place lambs or farm animals in it, for summer you could add flowers to it, for autumn you could make it orange and add spice to it or make it muddy with leaves and for winder you could add snowmen to it.

  • Young children have twice as many sensory receptors in their feet as they do in their hands. You could try leaving them dip their feet in it to feel the sensation.