Monday, March 7, 2011

Gak Attack!

As much as I love my children, the rugrats monkeys have been driving me bananas the last couple of days. Between the sniffles and crummy weather, they've been very crabby, which makes me very, VERY crabby.

Although I was momentarily seduced by the the thought of locking the boys in a cupboard under the stairs, I took the high road. Instead, we went shopping for a couple of ingredients so that we could make gak (and no, I'm not referring to a Klingon delicacy best served live). If you've never done this, it's a simple activity that 1) demonstrates science is cool and 2) keeps little hands occupied for awhile.

Quite simply, gak is a kind of rubbery putty made from white glue, water, and borax. Separately, these ingredients are not all that interesting. Mix them up, though, and WOWZA! (If I could make "wowza" sparkly I would because this project is just that awesome.) The borax causes the all the molecules in the solution to hook up and form long chains, turning the mix into a squishy ball of slime.

Of course, the kids couldn't care less as I tried to explain what a polymer was. They were too busy experimenting with gak's various physical properties. For instance, one of my budding scientists was hanging slime out of his nose and exclaiming, "Look, Mom! I've got the biggest booger in the history of boogers!" The other young Einstein was poking his putty and keenly observing, "Hey, my gak is FARTING!"

It occurs to me that life is a little like gak and in more ways than just the boogers and flarpy noises. As individuals, we're like glue, water, and borax. We are who we are. We do our thing. All it takes though, is one special interaction between two people to change everything. We get to be part of something more than just ourselves. We have the chance to create something special, something that's bigger than the sum of its parts.

Today, our special interaction was making gak. The kids and I had a great time and made some new bonds -- both chemical and relational. More importantly, our collective good humor has been restored, so the boys won't have to sleep under the stairs tonight.1

In case you want to make your own gak, here's the recipe. I'm also going to give you a recipe for another glue-based putty you may want to try.

--Solution 1--
  • 8 oz white glue (like Elmer's school glue)
  • Approximately 6-8 Tbsp warm water
  • Food coloring (optional)
--Solution 2--
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3/4 - 1 tsp Borax (You can usually find this in the laundry detergent section of your grocery store.)
  1. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together for Solution 1. Note: To measure the water, I fill up the empty glue bottle about 3/4 full and dump the water into the bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the ingredients for Solution 2. It's ok if you don't dissolve every single grain of borax.
  3. Pour Solution 2 into Solution 1.
  4. You'll immediately start to see the texture change. Stir the mixture until it is thick. Then use your hands to knead the putty. If you have any excess water, you can drain that off, but you probaby won't have any.

1/2 cup white glue
Food coloring (optional)
1/2 cup liquid laundry starch

Pour the glue into a bowl. If desired, mix with several drops of food coloring. Slowly add the starch while kneading the mixture with your fingers.

Notes: You can store gak and putty in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag. Also, you're going to want to keep them off any carpets.

1For any overanxious readers, the cupboard-under-the-stairs bit is a joke.  I have never locked the kids up under the stairs. I don't even have a room under the stairs. (Well, at least not one that locks.) I just want to be clear 'cause I don't want no calls from no Family Services.


Jodi said... [Reply]

Our first house had a pantry room with a self-locking door. My boys accidentally shut themselves in once. There was food and drinks on the shelves, but I rescued them immediately...I did...really. *cough*

Julie said... [Reply]

Our pantry locks automatically, too. I confess that the boys sometimes lock themselves (*cough*) in there. (*cough, cough, cough*)

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