Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pre-School Science: Non-Newtonian Fluid

The title sounds more complicated than it is.  Read on to learn how to keep your pre-schooler entertained with science.  You'll undoubtedly find yourself entertained as well.

It all started with our vinegar and baking soda experiment.  Oliver begged to do it over and over again. We did it three times. At one point, we actually ran out of baking soda and made a run to the store to play some more. Andrew came home and was over the moon about performing simple science with Oliver. He then announced he was going to make some "Non-Newtonian Fluid."


Apparently, there are some fluids that don't behave the way we expect. You can easily make a liquid at home that doesn't splash when you tap its surface. Instead, it gets hard. Unlike "normal" liquids which flow more readily when you push on them (think about when you squeeze water out of a bottle), non-Newtonian fluids get harder when you push on them.

No, I'm not kidding.

Andrew whipped some up, and it kept Oliver happily entertained for over an hour.  When we finally took it away to clean the mess, he was in tears pleading to play some more.

Here's how to make your own non-Newtonian fluid:

Take some cornstarch. Yup, that stuff that you probably have shoved in the back of your spice cabinet.  Put a 1/2 cup scoop of it in a plastic baggy. Add 1/4 cup of water to the bag.  Seal the baggy, and mix it with your fingers as best you can. Dump the mixture into a shallow bowl or pie plate, and hand it to your child to play with. Your child is likely to make a mess with this stuff, so take care to do this project in a place that can get covered in gunk.

You can tap the surface repeatedly with your fingers, and then feel as it solidifies under your fingers. When you stop tapping, it transforms back into liquid.  You can run your fingers along the bottom of the dish, and the mixture will feel solid.  When you try to pick it up, it turns back into liquid.

The more you play with your fluid, the firmer it will become. You might be able to create a ball with it. When you stop molding the ball, it will transform back into liquid and drip from your hands.

We eventually poured some out onto the table. We molded it into a ball, dropped it onto the table, and watched it turn back into liquid. I was fascinated, Andrew was fascinated, and Oliver was fascinated. We couldn't stop playing with the fluid.  Oliver got a little angry about sharing his new toy with his parents.

A couple times, as the mixture dried out a bit, it stopped liquefying as much. We added just a touch more water and resumed play.

Photos don't really do this science activity justice.  Check out what this fluid can do in our video:

1 comment:

Emily B said...

That's so cool! Looks like fun.