8 Exciting Cornflour (Cornstarch) Messy Play Activities
There are loads of fun cornflour (cornstarch) messy play activities to do which are great for sensory play. It is fun to mix cornflour with water and other substances for a range of different sensory experiences from classic oobleck to snow dough.
Cornflour and water (known as oobleck) is a non-Newtonian fluid, so it doesn’t follow Newton’s law of viscosity. Non-Newtonian fluids become runnier (e.g. ketchup) or thicker when the force on them changes. Cornflour and water become more viscous when shaken or squeezed so they can be particularly fun for sensory play. It can also be an excellent way for children to make marks and practice drawing and writing.
What you need for Cornflour (Cornstarch) Messy Play Activities
Oobleck is easy to make! You need about 1.5 or 2 parts cornflour (corn starch) for every 1 part water, and you can also add in food colouring. It can also be fun for children to add more water or cornflour to explore how it changes the consistency.
Children can enjoy picking up, squeezing, pouring, scooping, scraping and running their fingers through oobleck. When you can let children explore playing with it, you may find that they want to add things into it like flower petals, leaves or other things they might find.
You may also want to give children spoons and small containers so that they can pour it, mix it and make it into ‘chocolates’, ‘pies’ or whatever else their imaginations create.
Another fun way to explore oobleck is to freeze it. Mix it up as above. Put it in an ice cube tray or other mould, then put it in the freezer for several hours. It can also be fun to add things like boba (tapioca balls), flower petals, or water beads to make it even more exciting. It will thaw slowly while the children are playing with it, so it is nice to have some on hand that is not frozen so they can play with both at the same time. Frozen oobleck is a fantastic activity for a hot day!
Oobleck Paint & Cornflour Paint
Cornflour paint is quick and easy taste-safe paint that you can make at home. You can create colourful oobleck that children can use to paint, or you can make a creamier version that is a bit more like finger paints.
To make basic oobleck paint, combine about 1 cup water for every 1.5 to 2 cups of corn starch. Then divide up into different bowls or cupcake tray tins where food colouring can be combined in various ways to make different colours.
You can also make creamy cornflour paint that is very similar to finger paints. For the full recipe, see my post, Corn Starch Paint.
Glowing Oobleck -Cornflour Messy Play
You can make your oobleck even more exciting by making it glow!! To make your oobleck glow, you will need a backlight or backlight torch/flashlight, vitamin B, some tonic water or turmeric. Tonic water glows blue/white under UV light, vitamin B glows yellow, and turmeric glows bright yellow-green.
Glowing oobleck would be excellent around Halloween, and it makes for a lovely multisensory experience. If you make this for a Halloween party, you may even want to add a couple of drops of essential oils or spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg so that your oobleck also stimulates the children’s sense of smell (olfactory system).
Shaving Foam and Cornflour Fluffy Slime Activities
To make fluffy slime, sprinkle some cornflour into the bottom of a bowl. Then spray some shaving foam on top, add some food colouring (optional) and mix it. If it is too gooey, slowly add some more cornflour but if it is too dry and crumbly slowly mix in more shaving foam. I don’t have an exact recipe because it can vary so much depending on which type of shaving foam you use and it can also be hard to measure. If you make the mixture with more shaving foam, it can have a consistency similar to buttercream frosting. This is especially lovely for children to squeeze and run through their fingers.
It can get extremely messy, so when I do this type of activity, I tend to dress my youngest in a puddle suit and also use a tuff spot.
See my post, Shaving Foam Sensory Play Ideas for full details.
Dish Soap and Cornflour – Silly Putty or Slime
To make this homemade silly putty, you need to combine about 3 tablespoons of dish soap with 4 tablespoons of cornflour/cornstarch. The exact ratio may vary depending on what type of dish soap you use and if you want your putty slimy or more like putty/dough. When I used an eco-friendly brand, I had to use almost 6 tablespoons of cornflour for 3 tablespoons of dish soap. You can also add in food colouring and even glitter. This recipe is a lovely alternative to other homemade slimes that use borax.
Cornflour and Glue Slime
To make cornflour and glue slime, you need to use a ratio of 1 to 2, so for every cup of glue you will need about 2 cups of cornflour. Combine both ingredients in a bowl with food colouring and mix with a spoon or spatula.
This slime is extremely gooey and sticky, so it’s lovely for sensory play but not something you want to get all over your house. I would make sure that you have somewhere safe (like a tray or large bowl) to play with this.
Snow dough is a twist on Cloud Dough. It moulds into shapes like Cloud Dough, but it is soft, and it can also feel a bit crunchy and hard when you squeeze it. When you squeeze it, it makes a sound similar to walking on snow. To make it, combine about 2 cups cornflour for ½ cup vegetable oil. To make it sparkly, you can also add glitter.
Cornflour Conditioner Playdough
Cornflour Conditioner Playdough is a lovely salt-free, no-cook alternative to traditional playdough. It has a consistency that is a cross between playdough and oobleck, and children will enjoy pulling it, squeezing it and squashing it. Children also enjoy making prints in it using toys. See the link above for full details and the recipe.
Questions to ask
- How does it feel?
- What do you notice?
- What can you make?
- How does it change when you squeeze it? Let it go? Shake it? Squash it?
What they get from it
Sensory play is great for children’s learning and development by helping strengthen connections in the brain. These cornflour messy play activities help in the development of children’s language and communication skills, as well as cognitive, and gross and fine motor skills. The more sensory experiences we have, the better our ability to develop pathways in the brain for thought, learning and creativity (Gascoyne, 2016).
Children can help measure, pour and mix ingredients which helps them to understand volume and to develop motor skills. The sensory play involved with many of these activities helps to build dexterity, strength, and manipulative skills.
Cornflour Messy Play Activities – Take it further
I hope you enjoyed these cornflour (cornstarch) messy play activities! You may want to see some of my posts on Shaving Foam Sensory Play Ideas or Edible Mark Making Activities for Toddlers & Preschoolers for sensory and mark making ideas. If you are interested in some further ideas to develop fine motor skills, you may want to see some of my playdough recipes such as Homemade Cooked Playdough with Cream of Tartar, Homemade Playdough without Salt, or Pumpkin Spice Playdough Recipe.
Gascoyne, Sue (2016). Sensory Play: Play in the EYFS. Andrews UK Limited.