Messing about with slime
Online you can find lots and lots of posts and short videos on how to make slime with chia seeds and cornflour... I thought I would have a go, mostly because the idea of a homemade natural slime that is not messy on the hands appeals to me and my understanding of children who do not like to get messy during sensory play. I saw the recipes with just chia seeds, water and cornflour... but further research into the realm of slime shows that there are those that use liquid glue or xanthan gum in the recipe to create a more cohesive mass. Which I assume can make the mixture less messy.
But still there are still films out there that imply that this is a mess free slime. it is not. it is still fun to play with, but if you are looking for a more mess free one then I guess you will need to test out the mix with xanthan gum (to keep it natural avoid the glue... xanthan gum is a safe food additive made from fermented sugar bi-product (or as some write, fermented bacteria poop), used as a binding and thickening agent).
Doing a bit of research into xanthan gum and looking for more natural products rather than processed products (xanthan gum IS an E number) I saw that agar agar is a possible alternative (as are chia seeds, psyllium seeds (already in use in this experiment), ground flax seeds and gelatine). As I want to create a recipe that is inclusive - for vegans as well, and also a more sustainable for the planet approach, I have opted to try agar agar (which I also have at home).
I have soaked the seeds for various lengths of time (as there are a whole array of suggestions online... 20 minutes, 3 hours and overnight in the fridge). With the 20 minute mix I used a 1:2 ratio os seeds and water... with the other mixes it was 1:4. There was no obvious difference between the three hour and overnight ones.
The first three mixes were without the agar agar and they are the ones that you can see on the film I put together.
I also decided to try using psyllium seeds and not just chia seeds to see what would happen. They ended up having quite different consistencies... and the blue in the psyllium seeds coloured our hands... so I opted for less colour in the overnight mix, and no colour in the 20 minute mix.
The blue even the next day still stained fingers. The psyllium seeds was much more fun to look at (and less like a dessert) and also it moved and reacted to being poked in a more fun way. it did feel so much more slimey. the first day it was very sticky, and also harder to wash off hands than the chia seeds. The second day it was easier to wash off!
All of the slimes took more cornflour than any of the recipes called for... so don't make this if you have exactly the right amount of flour, as you may need twice as much or more. Put it this way I finished off a new package of cornflour making the first two batches... so about 3 times the amount!! I would say the overnight fridge one was just over twice the amount of called for cornflour too!
In the 20 minute one I added a teaspoon of agar agar and mixed it in before adding the flour... this time (as I made a smaller amount) I kept adding flour until it was a solid like mass, but still moved) I used just over 300g of cornflour to do this despite it only being 1 dl of seeds and 2dl of water
But I did finally achieve the sort of slime that was not as sticky and behaved like the slime in the videos I had observed online (but it took MUCH MUCH more flour then they describe)
What you could do, if with children in this process, is get them to guess how much cornflour it can absorb and still be stretchy... you could have tablespoons or other measures available for them to use - it would be a great way of maths and science to play yet another role in the play.
You can use scissors and knives with this dough... and I kneaded in the flour like bread once it was past the initial sticky phase.
This means that the children could be given the choice in just how sticky they want the slime... My daughter tried it our, and has naturally warmer hands then mine, and the slime still stuck to her... I guess another experiment would be to mix cornflour with water and agar agar... this might be a cheaper option - and would be simply like goop but with a more jelly-like consistency?
But they are all good ways of exploring the properties of materials and what happens when water is added (hydrated). So rather than making slime for the children why turn it into a whole project of testing out recipes for slime, letting them think about the environment and how ingredients impact them, nature and the planet. Let them discover the properties of ingredients and materials, let them compare, analyse and reflect on what works best and why they think that, and can they think of any other things that can be mixed together... ?
For those that like to weave technology and the digital world into play... get the children (and yourselves) to document using slow motion, or stop motion - how the slime moves, or how the seeds hydrate etc. There are apps where they can upload their findings to create their own book of recipes, using photos and descriptions... they might be interested in making their own how to do films for other children to use as inspiration. What about digital microscopes to see the details of the before, during and after?
These slimes are natural, which means they are perishable - so keeping them in the fridge can be a good idea and also think about how they are played with... if it is going in the mouth a lot, or children are putting hands in mouth or nose during play, then bacteria will get spread quickly and the slime will go bad quickly. Its a case of using your judgement... even though it may last a week in the fridge in a sealed container (unused) the number of times it can be re-used is limited by how it is played with. You have to use your common sense (the same applies to goop and play-dough - although the latter usually has a whole heap of salt in it which keeps a lot of bacteria at bay). My original aim was to see if this would be a slime suitable for children sensitive to getting messy... and really I am unsure... it could be, depending on the child, and the mood of the child that day. The first ones are definitely very messy, but the seeds to add a great extra dimension to the sensory play... the chia mix was easy to clean up afterwards...
The mix with as much flour as possible was the best for not getting messy, especially after it had rested for an hour, it became easier to hold with little or no residue on the hands, it also became easier to break off if you tugged at it, and stretch if you pulled slowly (so like the properties of goop - cornflour and water) With all children, it is about listening to the individual child, and not just thinking that there is a one size fits all even amongst the neurodiverse - they are as diverse ad the neurotypicals... and each will have their own reaction to every situation. it is a case of listening and observing. Playing with tools might be a great first step into the sensory world of slime! (and tools are usually fun for everyone... spoons, scoops, cups, sieves, funnels etc etc)