In this experiment you will make your own homemade silly putty also known as a polymer. By varying
the ratio of ingredients and by observing physical properties, you can determine the best recipe for
the putty. So lets get to is and Make Silly Putty
Introduction Make Silly Putty Experiment
You might think that chemists are a bunch of boring scientists who wear lab coats and look at
beakers all day, but did you know that many toys you play with are made using chemistry? Some of
your favorite toys like Gak, Slime and Silly Putty started out as chemistry experiments. In fact, some of
your favorite toys may have been invented by chemists who work for toy companies like: Crayola, Play-
Doh or Mattell.
Chemistry is the study of matter, and how different elements of matter interact. There are many
different kids of matter, which need to be described using the concept of properties. Toys like silly
putty are unique because of they have distinct properties that are different from the properties of other
types of matter. There are two different kinds of properties, chemical properties and physical
Chemical properties are qualities that can be observed during a chemical reaction, like when vinegar
reacts with baking soda. Physical properties are qualities that can be observed during physical
change in the absence of a chemical reaction, like the melting of an ice cube. Physical properties can
be used to describe the state of a chemical, which can be a solid, liquid or a gas. The physical and
chemical properties of Silly Putty are what make it so much fun because it is a polymer that is stretchy
Scientists use properties to describe all of the unique qualities of a chemical or a mixture of
chemicals. To do this they use descriptive language, or words that are used to describe objects.
Some descriptive words used to describe a chemical might be: hot, cold, squishy, hard, soft,
crystalline, granular, smooth, liquid, clear, opaque, runny. There are many different qualities to be
described. You just need to find the right words to use.
The unique physical and chemical properties of a polymer or mixture can be changed by the amount
of each different ingredient used to make them. Sometimes the amount of one ingredient compared
to the amount of another ingredient can make a big difference. This is called a ratio, and a ratio can
be useful to know how much of each ingredient to add to your mixture so you will end up with a
mixture that has desirable properties.
In this experiment you will change the ratio of two basic ingredients in homemade Silly Putty. You will
describe the physical properties of each different mixture using a data table. Then you will choose the
ratio of ingredients to create the best putty product.
Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research
To do this type of experiment you should know what the following terms mean. Have an adult help you
search the internet, or take you to your local library to find out more!
Elmer's white school glue
Borax (also called 20-Mule Team household cleaner); See "Local Resources for Purchasing
Common Chemicals" on our Guide to Purchasing Chemicals page.
measuring cups and spoons
two recycled glass jars with a lid
Process Make Silly Putty Experiment
- First you will need to prepare solution #1, the 50% glue solution, which is made up of half glue and
- Add one cup of glue and one cup of water to one of the jars.
- Tightly secure the lid to the jar and shake until glue is fully diluted, and no gooey clumps remain.
- Using a permanent marker, label this jar "Solution #1: 50% Glue".
- Next, you will make solution #2, the Borax solution, which is made up of 4% Borax in water. Usually
you would weigh the borax, but you can approximate this solution by adding 2 tsp Borax to 1 cup of
warm water to a jar.
- Tightly secure the lid to the jar and shake until no particles of Borax remain, and the solution is clear.
- Using a permanent marker, label this jar "Solution #2: 4% Borax".
- Now we will add Solution #1 and Solution #2 together in different ratios, to see what properties the
final mixture will have. First we need to make a data table:
-For each mixture, first add the correct amount of Solution #1 (50% Glue) to a Zip-lock baggie.
- Then add the corresponding amount of Solution #2 (4% Borax) to the baggie.
-Seal the baggie, and using your fingers squish the mixture around to mix together the ingredients.
- Write down your observations in your data table.
- When the mixture begins to form a sticky glob, you can take it out of the baggie.
- Write down your description of the physical properties of the material in your table. Remember to
use words like runny, slimy, sticky, hard, soft, bouncy, etc�
- Which ratio of ingredients produced the best product? What will you call your new product?
Now get some friends and try the Make Silly Putty Experiment.
Credits: Sara Agee, Ph.D., Science Buddies
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