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Sensory Play: Making Gak and Playing with Gak

making and playing with Gak - great sensory fun for kids!

We have made Gak several times, but our most recent attempt using equal parts water, liquid glue, and starch was my favorite! White school glue is a polymer, and when you mix it with liquid starch the starch makes the polymer strands link up. Adding water to the glue seemed to help it link up to the liquid starch more cleanly – and it meant that we needed less glue for this fun sensory play recipe! We added food coloring as well, just for fun. You can also use glitter glue or add glitter to clear glue to create very cool-looking Gak!

Sensory Play with Gak

We have made Gak several times, but htis was our favorite recipe

Making Gak is a sensory experience on its own! First we mixed the water and glue, and then we added the liquid starch. The liquid starch on its own has a similar consistency to the watered-down glue. The main difference is that the watered-down glue is sticky, and the starch is not. So it’s pretty cool to mix these two liquids together and create Gak!

Gak: The Perfect Sensory Material for a Hot Day

Gak is a great sensory experience for kids of all ages

Gak feels really nice and cool – it never feels hot, for some reason. It can hold a shape for a few seconds, but then it melts into a mass again.

sensory play with Gak

Five-year-old Lily was fascinated by the fact that she could push her fingers into it and meet some resistance, and that the prints would be there for a few seconds:

Gak is sensory science for kids

But then they would melt away as if she had never been there.

toddlers love playing with Gak with supervision

Two-year-old Anna loves play dough, and she was pleased to find that, with a bit of perseverance, she could make a snake out of Gak too – even if the head of the snake was starting to melt down by the time she got to the tail!

cutting practice with Gak for toddlers and preschoolers

Anna also enjoyed cutting the Gak, and seeing how the knife marks disappeared almost immediately. So fascinating!

Note: Elmer’s school glue is non-toxic, and the liquid starch I used has no anticipated adverse effects from ingestion (that is why I used it instead of Borax, which is another popular Gak ingredient), but neither is intended for eating. No adverse effects primarily means it isn’t likely to permanently harm you; it could make you feel quite sick in the short term. Borax is used to make liquid starch, but making the starch changes the chemical structure, making it safe. Anna doesn’t put things in her mouth and I always supervise her play. If you have a child who is likely to put things in their mouth, I recommend the edible gak recipe from Asia Citro’s book, 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids.

gak in a bag is mess-free sensory play

You might have noticed that all of this play happened on plastic trays. Gak is messy, and if it gets on clothes it can stick or stain (if you included food coloring in your Gak). So we play with our Gak on trays that we use for all sorts of kids activities. We bought our trays at IKEA, where you will probably find the best deal (they sell a white version of the blue ones we own now). If you don’t have an IKEA, these trays look like they would work well. Lily enjoyed playing with her gak once it was put away in a zip lock bag – like our popular mess-free art activity.

What sensory activities do your kids enjoy?

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

15 thoughts on “Sensory Play: Making Gak and Playing with Gak”

  1. Elisa | blissfulE

    What a fun activity! I love your pictures and how each of your children interacted with this unusual substance in his or her own way.

  2. This looks like it would be fun to make and play with. It seems like it would be good for kids needing to work on fine motor or as an OT hand excersiser. I think I will share it in my PD group.

    1. Yes, it is great for OT and building fine motor, definitely! You can hide small toys in it for kids to find, too. Have you heard of Thera Putty? Anna uses that in OT – it has more resistance. Thinking Putty also looks really interesting.

  3. jeannine @ waddleeahchaa

    We have made a similar gak recipe from Steve Spangler. It makes a fabulous hands-on science lesson. And then the fun last for days!!!

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