When my kids were playing in sand recently I mentioned something like, “hopefully it isn’t quicksand.” My kids both asked, “what’s quicksand?”. I realized they didn’t know what quicksand was yet, so we watched a few YouTube videos to learn about it. My kids were enthralled. Then I decided to turn it into a STEAM activity! We made our own quicksand, which is basically Oobleck with sand added. 

Note: Just like Oobleck, this experiment is MESSY! Cornstarch powder flies everywhere as you dump it in the bowl. The kids can’t keep the quicksand just in the bowl, no matter how hard everyone tries. But it is SO MUCH FUN! And the clean up took me 5 minutes, at most. We just used a paper towel to clean everyone’s hands and the table, and then they did a final wash in the sink. Easy peasy! 

MATERIALS: 

  • Sand
  • Cornstarch
  • Water
  • Measuring cups
  • Large bowl or container that can be used to mix and play with the quicksand
  • Toy animals (optional)

PROCEDURE:

  1. Add 2 cups cornstarch to a large bowl.
Our cornstarch powder flew everywhere!

2. Add 1 cup water to the cornstarch, stir well to combine (if you stop here you have Oobleck).

3. Add 1 to 2 cups sand to the Oobleck mixture, stir well to combine.

4. Drop toy animals into your quicksand and watch them slowly sink.

5. Can you rescue the animals?

This is when it starts to get really messy!

6. Do your hands sink in the quicksand like the animals? Are they harder to pull out than they were to put in?

STEAM CONCEPTS LEARNED:

  • Science: This is a non-Newtonian fluid – it behaves as a solid when a force (such as a strong finger or hand) is applied on it, but it behaves as a liquid when force is removed. It will drip between your fingers like liquid, but will also harden into a solid ball when continuously rolled in the palms of your hands. Quicksand in nature behaves in an opposite manner. It appears solid, but when disturbed, it becomes liquified which is why you can start to sink after walking into it. 
  • Math: Have your kids help you measure and count ingredients.   

If you and your kids want to learn more about quicksand I recommend watching a few YouTube video about quicksand in nature and how to escape quicksand, so they can learn more about this powerful and fascinating natural phenomenon. 

My kids had a blast letting their toy animals get stuck in the the quicksand and getting their hands stuck too. It was messy, and so much fun. Non-Newtonian fluids are just mesmerizing to play with. I can’t get enough of the feel because it can drip between my fingers, but it is also moldable.

Is this an activity you think your kids would like? Let me know if you try it out! 

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