Tag Archives: water absorbing polymers

Water Jelly Crystals Give Lesson in Transformation and Potential

water jelly crystals, potential Sometimes, our students need a little reminder that if they just wait, if they just have a little patience, wonderful things can happen. Many students don’t understand this concept unless they see a tangible example of it, and Steve Spangler’s Water Jelly Crystals are the perfect way to show them.

There is science in every subject area, and this simple experiment demonstrates to any history, English, math, health, home ec, shop, computer, yes, and science, student the very simple concept of amazing transformation, the blossoming of potential, with the addition of just one thing.

At the beginning of class, I show the students the tiny, unimpressive-looking little beads that resemble the rock salt used in winter or with homemade ice cream. What could possibly come of adding just one more thing to these hard, unattractive things?

So I put them in a clear glass bowl and add one ingredient – water. Just water.  I send a student to fill the pitcher so they’ll know it’s no trick – it really is just water.  I ask the students to let us all know if they see anything change.

Class begins as usual.

It only takes about 20 minutes for someone to stand up and say something, and that something is usually, “WOW! Look at it! Look at it, you guys!”

Because with the addition of just one simple thing, a few mundane pieces (of what looks like nothing much) have become a treasure trove of glittering jewels.

This is what education does, you see. Add one simple thing to one other simple thing and the end result is something unutterably beautiful.

It’s also a lesson in polymers, but on this particular day, it’s the transformation from blah to pirate booty that is emphasized.

It’s so simple. It’s so beautiful. And it’s a lesson that is easily understood and remembered.

I bring baggies so the students can help themselves to a handful of “gems” to take home and nourish. With education, we need to keep feeding our knowledge – that’s how things grow.

I have students who are still nurturing 6-year-old water jelly crystals on their windowsills. This makes me really, really happy.

The Science Secret Behind Squishy Baff – How to Make Your Own Squishy Bath

By Blog Editor Susan Wells 

If you have kids, you’ve seen the commercials – buy a magic powder, add it to the bath and have a squishy bath. Squishy Baff works when you fill the bath with water, add a special colored powder, and the bath water turns to a soupy, mushy, squishy bath. Then have the kids climb in and have fun.

 

One of our favorite bloggers Sarah, from Moose and Tater, asked us to do a little work and figure out the science behind this product. We took the challenge and started in with our research.

Squishy Baff – the powder that turns your bath into squishy fun is most likely a polymer. Polymers are long chains of molecules. Water absorbing polymers soak up water through osmosis and swell to a larger size.  The polymer chains have an elastic quality, but they can stretch only so far and hold just so much water.

Most common synthetic polymers are said to be hydrophobic (water-fearing), which means that they do not absorb water. Examples of these polymers might include products such as plastic cups, bags, and plastic toys. There are also hydrophilic, or water-loving polymers. Many natural polymers such as cotton fibers are hydrophilic.

Steve Spangler Science sells several different polymers. These hydrogels come in solid form or in powder form. The Squishy Bath product is a powder. We believe it is very similar to our Water Gel powder.

Water Gel is also known as slush powder. It instantly turns a liquid into a solid or at least into a slushy solid. With Squishy Baff, the powder is super saturated with water, so it goes beyond a solid and becomes more of a goo.

The main ingredient in Water Gel is sodium polyacrylate. It absorbs from 800 to 1000 times its weight in water and is actually the secret ingredient that’s used to absorb “liquid” in baby diapers.

To replicate the gooey bath that Squishy Baff creates, we made a small scale version in a plastic tub. We added about 3 scoops of Water Gel and mixed it with about 2 pitchers full of colored water. Food coloring can stain, so we used our Color Fizzers – True Color Tablets to color the water.

Buy Water Gel now to make your own Squishy Baff

We came up with a very similar bath situation. It was squishy, it was gooey and it was a lot of fun. Hands and feet were quickly added to the solution. The kids couldn’t get enough of squishing the goo in their fingers and toes. I’m just glad we did this on a smaller scale…I couldn’t imagine trying to clean up an entire body covered with goo.

But what happens when the fun is over? The Squishy Baff people include a special powder to add to your bath at the end. The powder dissolves the polymer, allowing it to wash down the drain. Our guess was the “special” powder is really sodium chloride, or some type of salt. Salt breaks the bonds in a polymer, breaking it down.

The problem is it takes a LOT of salt to break down the polymer. We added about 1/3 cup of salt to our mixture and while the polymer did break down, there was still some of it left.

Water Gel is non-toxic, but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be treated with care and adult supervision.

Our Spangler Lab Rats, the people behind the scenes at Steve Spangler Science who test all of our products, all winced when I mentioned putting Water Gel or Squishy Baff in the tub with children. For starters, a water-absorbing polymer will absorb water from anything it comes into contact with. If a child accidentally gets some of the powder in their mouth, the polymer will attach itself to all water, including that in the lips, mouth and cheeks. You can’t spit it out, because it absorbs the liquid in saliva. Drinking water will only make it worse and hydrate the powder even more. If you get water absorbing polymer powder in your mouth, your best option is to continually rinse and spit until your mouth is clear.

You also do not want the polymer to wash down the drain. In our experiment, even after adding a lot of salt, there was still a trace of Water Gel left in the water. I was not comfortable washing it down my drain, even if it had completely broken down. A little water absorbing polymer in your pipes can cause problems with clogs. The polymer will take a long time to wash away and will re-hydrate every time water runs down the pipe.

We poured our Water Gel squishy bath out in the garden. The water absorbing polymer helps with water conservation in the garden and will hold moisture in the dirt when it hydrates and slowly dehydrates, like in the experiment we did a few years ago with gardening with hydrogel crystals. You can also put it in a plastic bag and throw it away in the trash.

Whether you try Squishy Baff or our Water Gel experiment, we suggest you do not do it in the tub or sink and instead have the kids play with it in a blow up pool (like in the ad) or plastic tub. We also aren’t sure it’s a good idea to submerge children (or adults) in the hydrogel. The stuff isn’t meant to get into every crevice and just like taking a bath with bubble bath, it could potentially cause some irritation, especially in girls.

We love messy activities at Spangler Science, but cringe as parents when we think of trying to clean up children and tubs full of hydrogel. The stuff sticks everywhere.

 

 

Larry's Lab Polymer Science Kit – 12 Days of Wonder

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

We have reached Day #6, our halfway point in our 12 Days of Wonder. Today’s spotlight science toy is Larry’s Lab Polymer Science Kit.

Steve Spangler Science is celebrating the 12 Days of Wonder and highlighting our top 12 science toys and kits that are perfect to put under the tree. As blog editor, social media coordinator and mom of two budding scientists, I will share my review of each product. Steve Spangler Science also found 12 respected, popular mom bloggers to each test and review one of our 12 science gifts. I will include a link to their blogs and their honest reviews of each gift idea at the bottom of this post. Today, Liz from The Kitchen Pantry Scientist shares her review. The kit is also the Deal of the Day. So check our blog every day for the next few weeks to learn all about our 12 Days of Wonder.

Day 6 of the 12 Days of Wonder features the Larry’s Lab Polymer Science Kit.

Today only, this kit is our DEAL of the Day for $26.99. Regular price is $44.99.

 

My Review: 

Water absorbing polymers are some of the most fun and engaging science tools in our catalog. They are ooey, gooey, fun to touch and just plain amazing. I have never met a child or adult that could resist touching and playing with them.

Polymers are long chains of molecules. Some polymers can also absorb a great deal of water. They are called superabsorbent polymers.

Larry’s Kit comes with my favorite water absorbing marbles and large orbs. The large orbs are colored, but the Jelly Marbles are clear and can be colored using food coloring or Fizzy Tablets. They are fun to touch and play with or you can use them for a few lessons in light refraction and magnification. I’ve used Jelly Marbles as ghost eggs and eyeballs at Halloween, a flower vase accent in the spring and frozen them as candle holders at Christmas-time.

Tis the season for Instant Snow. This kit also includes a jar of the original fake snow. You can make snow in seconds by adding water to this dry powder. Kids will beg you to make snow in their hands over and over.

Gravi-goo is a slippery, snot-like goo that will slip and slide when poured between two cups. Add a few Jelly Marbles to the mixture and you really have gooey glop. Gravi-goo will also pull itself out of the cup.

The  final jar in the kit is Water Gel. This polymer will turn from a powder into a doughy solid. This polymer is fun to put into a cup without anyone seeing you do it. Then pour some water in the cup and ask for volunteers to stand bravely under the cup while you turn it upside down over their head.  The polymer will absorb the water so when the cup is held upside down the water won’t come out. Place a playing card over the cup to catch the solid polymer.

Don’t forget to also add Larry to a tub of water and watch him grow.

Larry, the Jelly Marbles and Giant Orbs will all need at least overnight if not several days to fully absorb the water and grow to full size.

Here’s what you get in this kit:

Water Gel – When you add water to this superabsorbent polymer, it instantly turns from a liquid to a slushy solid.
Jelly Marbles – Tiny 3 mm spheres that, when soaked in water, grow into 20 mm water-filled marbles.
Gravi-Goo – Fascinating goo that finds a way to flow uphill. Sound impossible? Think again!
Giant Orbs – Gooey bouncing balls turn into massive, colorful spheres after soaking in water.
Insta-Snow – Just add water to the powder and before your eyes you’ll have an eruption of fluffy snow.
Larry the Lizard  – Your own Larry, a polymer and a scientist all wrapped up in one small lizard. Place Larry in a bowl of water and watch him grow. Larry has also put together many different activities to help you learn all about polymers with this kit.

I want to mention what a great deal Larry’s Lab is as a kit. If you were to purchase all five jars of polymers plus Larry individually, the total would be over $55. If you catch Larry’s Lab today on the Deal of the Day, you receive considerable savings on all polymers.

Blogger Review: 

Read the Review from Liz at the The Kitchen Pantry Scientist >

Many thanks to Liz at The Kitchen Pantry Scientist for testing our Larry’s Lab Polymer Science Kit. Visit The Kitchen Pantry Scientist and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.