Kate is a mother of two boys and also manages a nanny business in the Sacramento area of California.
Silly Putty is the childhood toy we all loved to stretch, mold, and copy newspaper print with. But it wasn't always a sensory-friendly pastime. Silly Putty was originally invented during World War II when the government funded research into creating synthetic rubber compounds that could make up for the worldwide rubber shortage caused by the war.
One silicone polymer was invented that made a poor rubber substitute but a thoroughly entertaining toy. Soon enough, the original Silly Putty was marketed to children in the characteristic egg-shaped container, and many other brands created by imitators soon after.
You too can make your own version using one of these fun recipes.
The Basics of Making Homemade Silly Putty
Different recipes will yield different types of results, so you might want to experiment to find the type of putty you most enjoy playing with. Simply making a few batches is a fun activity for the kids and can be educational as well.
The common ingredient in most putty recipes is glue and choosing the right glue is important to creating the right texture that we've all come to associate with that sticky, stretchy stocking stuffer staple. The glue you want to have handy is a polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue, which is just Elmer's white school glue or something like it.
This is a type of thermoplastic synthetic polymer that, when combined with the right ingredients, will behave like Silly Putty.
Basic Silly Putty Recipe
What Saline-Based Putty Should Look Like
We love the simple saline recipe, but if for some reason you're unable to use saline, these recipes are great alternatives. You may not get the classic silly putty consistency, but you'll still get a fun, malleable dough that will hold mix-ins and keep well in a sealed container, just like the original recipe!
Simple Two-Ingredient Putty
Borax and Glue Putty
Customizing Your Putty
The putty from your childhood was a distinct eraser pink that took on a questionable gray shade after a few days of picking up ink, lint, and dust from all of the places you crammed that rubbery ball of magic. Whatever color brings you joy, you can create it by mixing a few drops of liquid food coloring to the glue or corn starch until you've hit the right shade. Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix as directed in the recipe you're using.
Get extra fancy by adding some glitter to your putty. Sprinkle a teaspoon of your favorite glitter to the glue instead of or in addition to food coloring. Personally, I love the Martha Stewart glitter collection because everything it touches looks like it belongs to a fairy afterward. You could also experiment with glitter glue products as long as you're using school glue. Elmer's has a bunch of awesome glittered school glue products.
Fun Mix-In Ideas for Your Putty
- Glitter (try different sizes and shapes like confetti, fine glitter or even tinsel glitter!).
- Essential Oils (if you're creating with kids, try a scent that's specifically blended for kid-safety, like the “Kidsafe” brand).
- Food coloring or non-toxic, washable kids paint.
How to Store Your Homemade Putty
Silly Putty left out too long is going to dry out and get flaky. It's also very sticky and picks up dust, lint, hair, and other particles from its environment. For the best use, be sure to play with your putty in a clean area and put it away after each use. If your putty becomes especially dirty, you may want to dispose of it and make a fresh batch. Be sure to throw away your putty; it will clog the sink if you attempt to dispose of it down the drain.
The best way to store homemade putty is in an air-tight container. Try a plastic bag or small, plastic container with a locking lid. Cornstarch-based putty will dry out faster than putties made with glue. You can revitalize it by adding a few more drops of soap and kneading it back to its regular consistency.
Dye color may also bleed depending on the materials used; play with your putty for a while to see whether it stains your hands before playing with it near clothes or countertops you don't want stained. When mixed properly, these recipes should be color-fast.
Because borax is toxic when eaten, borax-based putty is not a good choice for very young children. The cornstarch and soap recipe should be non-toxic, but no putty is safe to eat. Always be sure to supervise children and provide a safe, clean place to play and experiment.
© 2018 Kate Stroud