Putty is a pliable tool that teaches children about science and uses language skills, plus it's lots of fun! The original putty, called Silly Putty, was invented by accident in 1943 by a General Electric engineer by the name of James Wright. The mixture is made of boric acid and silicone and is a viscoelastic liquid, meaning the mixture has properties of both elastic and liquid. You can try several fun activities with putty to stretch the limits of your child's imagination.
Putty is able to create an instant image of items on newsprint such as newspapers and comic strips. Have your children press the flattened putty onto a piece of newsprint and watch as they are delighted when the image is transferred to the putty. To remove the image and try again, knead the putty into itself.
Mold putty into a wide range of shapes and figures. Let your child use their imagination to make people, animals or other shapes out of their putty. To preserve the shape for a short time, stick the putty in the freezer. When you remove the putty from the freezer, it will maintain the shape for a time, but will slowly melt back into a puddle. This is an ideal activity to show how certain environments affect the putty.
Let It Melt
While the putty can be shaped into different shapes, because of its viscoelastic liquid properties, it will always return to a liquid like form. For an experiment with the putty, shape it into a ball and pull a small length of putty away from the ball. Stick the putty to the refrigerator or other vertical surface by pressing the ball end of the putty onto the surface, and the tail end pointing down. Leave the putty alone and see how long it takes the putty to travel down the vertical surface. You can use the scientific method to come up with a hypothesis as to how long the putty will take to travel down the surface.
Snap, Crackle and Pop
Delight your kids by making the putty snap, crackle and pop. Press the putty into a flat disk and then stretch and fold the putty onto itself as if you are kneading bread. Continue folding and stretching, trapping small air bubbles in the putty until you are unable to fold it any longer. Have your children put the putty in their hands and squeeze the putty in the middle -- it will pop and crackle as the air bubbles escape.