Kids adore the texture of mud―at least mine does. “Magic Mud” is even better―it can be made in your kitchen, and it’s a lot easier on the laundry. It takes just a minute to “mix” and the result is so bizarre, you and your young scientists will get a real kick out of it. All you need is cornstarch and water.
Magic Mud Recipe
(courtesy of Hey Kids! You’re Cookin’ Now! by Dianne Pratt)
8” x 8” x 2” pan (a square casserole dish worked well for us)
2 cups cornstarch
1 cup cold water
1 tbsp. food coloring, optional (We omitted this. I never use food coloring and I really didn’t want to shell out cash just for 1 tbsp. of it here. Plus, to me, this experiment was more about the texture than the color.)
1) Combine cornstarch and water (and optional food coloring) in pan. (Two things to note: If using food coloring, mix it with the water before adding the water to the cornstarch. AND…if you buy a big jar of cornstarch, do not assume―like I did the first time around―that 16 oz. equals 2 cups. Be sure to actually measure the corn starch. Lesson learned.)
2) Mix “magic mud” with your hands until smooth.
3) Marvel at the strange texture!
Ask me WHY Magic Mud is the way it is, and I draw a blank. I found high school chemistry and physics to be dull, dull, dull, but these concepts fascinate me now, and I really want T to get excited about science, too.
Thank goodness, Dianne Pratt, author of Hey Kids! You’re Cookin’ Now!, knows what’s up:
“When you squeeze [Magic Mud] or slap it quickly, it becomes hard. But when you move it around or push it slowly, it acts like liquid. This is because cornstarch is ground into such fine particles that the molecules line up like little plates. The plates stay rigid when squeezed or slapped, but slide around when released and there is little or no pressure.” If you want to get more technical than that, according to KidZone, this cornstarch-water mixture is an example of a fourth state of matter called a “suspension.” Liquid, solid, and gas are the three other states of matter. (Okay, Science Moms & Dads, feel free to chime in here and let me know how badly I butchered that explanation. Be kind―I was a psych major!)
Magic Mud can be stored in an airtight container for a few more days of funky-feeling fun. If it dries out, just add a little water. When you’re all finished with it and are ready to discard, put it in the trash. Do NOT put it down the drain. That will make a Magic Mess, and a Magic Plumber will charge a Magic Arm & Leg to clean up.
If you try this experiment with the kids, please come back and leave a comment below!
Sophia savors all the joys (and challenges!) of motherhood with her husband C, son T, and soon-to-be baby girl in San Diego. Read more of her (mis)adventures in mothering at MamaSayMamaSo.