The bell sounded signaling the end of the school day and the children began walking into the afterschool program. As backpacks were stored and greetings exchanged a group of children started congregating around a long table. Curious, I walked over to say hello and see what the children were working on. The children were talking with excitement about a small plastic tub sitting on top of the table. When I inquired what was in the small tub, the child who owned the object of curiosity opened the tub and invited me to look inside. What I saw was a pearly pink substance filled with glittery sparkles. When I asked, “What is this”? The answer came back, Slime!
In this moment I made a discovery and then found out later I was the last one to know. What I discovered, by accident, was that Slime was surging in popularity. The children instead of making Slime were buying it online and collecting it like other types of toys. Slime had become the Pokemon of gooey materials.
Wanting to know more about the surge in Slime interest, I did a little research. Turns out Slime, is trending. It has been on the upswing of popularity since the beginning of 2017, possibly as early as the summer of 2016. Like other toy trends that slowly creep into our program, Slime made it’s appearance and was here to stay at least until the next trend pushes it aside.
In October 2017, NPR published an article about Slime called “The Rise of the Slime Economy”. The article is about the rising of Slime popularity, the new economics of Slime, and how young people are making it and making money off Slime through direct selling and internet marketing.
The original Slime was a toy created by Mattel in 1976. Wikipedia says the original toy was created as a non-toxic material made of Guar Gum, a substance made from Guar beans that are grown in India, Pakistan, U.S., Australia and Africa. India is the largest Guar bean producer, growing 80% of the worlds supply. Aside from toys Guar Gum is a thickening agent used by the food, paper, textile, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Guar Gum has eight times the thickening properties of cornstarch, the material used to create the Slime like and super fun Gak.
Early in the school year there were signs to this upswing in popularity of Slime but I did not make the connection to the growing mainstream popularity. As this school year started the school age children kept asking to work with Playdough, and other children were expressing an interest in creating Slime, making Gak and other gooey substances. Using this type of material has always been popular choice but now the children were keen to work with the material more often.
During my career we have always made different gooey materials using recipes from the classic book Mudworks by MaryAnn F. Kohl. The children love mixing the ingredients and getting their hands in the results of their labor. There are many benefits to this type of work. Gooey materials are very sensorial in nature and the children especially love the feel, look, and movement each of the different types of Goo offers.
Working with Gooey materials is very social, the children love doing it together if enough material is available and the work sparks wide ranging conversation and expressions of emotion as the material is explored.
When creating gooey material there is usually a recipe and the children have the opportunity to practice measuring and chemistry while creating. Often the mixture needs some adaptation to become the glorious material the children have imagined so experimentation is a big part of the Goo creating process.
Another great aspect of gooey materials is the motor skills being employed to explore the material. Exploring gooey materials is very active work even if most of the work takes place at a table. Lots of kneading, pulling, cutting, squishing, squashing, and pounding occurs as the material is being explored.
Gooey materials are also wonderful because like all great materials they are adaptable to all children. Children of all ages love gooey materials. The drive to play with this type of material starts young as we discover some water mixed with dirt makes the original gooey material, mud. Then as babies to the shock of our parents we play with some old gum we find sticking to something and then graduate to different options like Playdough.
I do not know how long Slime will be trending but right now it is a hot commodity for school age children. A few days after I saw my first prepackaged tub of Slime other children had tubs of their own to share with friends. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to create, over many weeks we created and explored different types of gooey materials with names like Cloud Dough, Sparkly Slime, Unicorn Slime, Holiday Scented Dough and the classic Playdough in six different colors. This inspired me to create my new favorite saying, “Too much Slime, too little time.”
Is Slime trending in your program?
What is your favorite gooey material recipe?