Say what?!

Okay, it has been a while since I posted anything directly related to “Adventures with Pa (& Gmama)” so congrats! Today is the day.


Dr. Seuss wrote a book entitled “Bartholomew and the Oobleck.” Like so many of Dr. Seuss books, it has a subtle lesson hidden within the story.

But that’s not the point…

a concoction of corn starch and water has been bequeathed with the name “Oobleck” because it resembles the substance described in Seuss’ book. In a ratio of about 1 part water to 1.5 parts cornstarch, you create a non-Newtonian glob: easy to put fingers into if done slowly, and resistant to quick compressive actions like a quick finger jab. It has been used and documented more times than I have time to write about, so do some research and see the zany results (better yet, grab a box of cornstarch and some water and give it a try yourself!).

Ingredients for today’s Adventure:

(C) 2021 P. Nehnevajsa. All rights reserved.
  • Cornstarch
  • Water
  • Fluorescent finger paint
  • Iron Filings
  • Magnets
  • Magnifying glass
  • Black light

How it was done:

In small bowls hand-mix 1 part water to about 1.5 parts cornstarch (using more or less to make the mix just right)

Test out the properties of the Oobleck. Yes, grab a handful: for example: 1) roll it around in your hand and make a ball of it, then let it “melt”; 2) slowly put fingers into the mix then pull them out fast…but hold on to the bowl with your other hand; 3) Poke it slowly with your fingers, then poke it fast…what’s the difference?

Next add some fluorescent finger paint to the mix. You can do this by pouring a little bit out of the main bowl into smaller containers then add paint. If it gets too runny, add a pinch of cornstarch to it.

Then turn off the lights and turn on the black light…see the difference between the containers with and without the paint.

Now, take a little more of the mix from the main bowl and pour it into a small container. Add some iron filings and mix. Pour the new mix out and use the magnets to make the mix “move” …our grandsons took the magnets and did other experiments – one created a moving wheel by using two round magnets, the other created a stalagmite by holding the magnet above the mix and having it rise to meet the magnet.

A magnifying glass can be used to get a closer look at what is happening with the iron filing mix or with just a little bit of iron filings by themselves.


That’s it! Our gkids found a dozen creative ways to use, test, and play with the mixes and magnets.

Make sure to dispose of the whole thing in the garbage or let it dry out and then dispose of the powder…just do not rinse it down the drain since that may have unforetold consequences (remember the properties of Oobleck, in case you are wondering)

Lessons Learned

So, what was observed?

A 1.5-year-old was timid about playing with it but once fingers were wet, he had a messy blast. Squeezing it between his fingers, rolling it around, clenching his hands, and yes almost eating it which is okay if it is just the cornstarch mix by itself. Lesson learned: sometimes I too am timid to try something until I get my feet (or fingers) wet. Remembering this may provide the permission needed to really embrace whatever I am trying.

Our 6-year-old created moving “machines” by placing the round magnets vertically in the Oobleck. One magnet was placed in the mix while the other magnet was used to pull it through the mix. Lesson learned: sometimes I fight for a solution when all I need is a different way of looking at what is at hand and using it in an unexpected way.

Out 10-year-old, after painting his hand with Oobleck, added the iron filing mix to the main batch. He then held the magnet above the solution and watched the iron filings try to escape the solution…which really means the iron filings created a small pillar aka stalagmite that tried to reach the magnet. Lesson learned: sometimes I need to just be curious and experiment with what is in front of me instead of trying to control every outcome.


Suggestion by the boys? Leave the blacklight on for a longer period.

What was forgotten amid the Oobleck chaos? I had a box of food colors I was going to use to change the color of the mix (and look at that mix under black light).

Clean-up? Yup. It can be a mess – plan with that in mind. Using a disposable tablecloth and cardboard as the table surface helped a lot. Made  sure the gkids knew to go wash hands and put lotion on (it will dry your hands) …though the 1.5-year-old did enjoy a bath (no way to simply clean him off!!).

Overall, play. Lesson learned: squeeze everything out of life. Mold it, shape it, let it shape you, and remember to play, laugh, be curious, experiment, have fun, and look at things from different perspectives.

(C) 2021 P. Nehnevajsa. All rights reserved.