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Non-Newtonian DIY Stress Balls for Kids

How to make DIY stress balls for kids using non-Newtonian liquids.

It can be easy to forget how stressful life can be for little kids. As adults, it can seem so simple. Go to school, keep your room clean, you’re good.

But as parents, we know that our kids face all kinds of stressors and challenges every day. Starting school remotely can add even more challenges as kids have to sit still in front of a computer for way longer than they normally need to.

I have been looking at ways to help Ben sit still, not get overwhelmed, and just learn to handle his stress. One way I thought would help was to have a stress ball to squeeze. Now, we didn’t have one on hand. But I did think of a way to make one super quickly.

So here is how to make DIY stress balls for kids, plus a little science behind how it works.

(And scroll down to the bottom for a list of more ways to help your child deal with frustration, stress, and big feelings.)

DIY Stress Balls for Kids with picture of materials to make the stress ball (balloon, cornstarch, measuring cup

DIY Stress Balls for Kids

Kids feel stress. We can try our best to prevent it, but there is no way to avoid it altogether. And honestly, it is better to teach our kids coping techniques from a young age than to try to eliminate all stressors from their lives. Finding a way to physically release stress is one method to try.

These balls are also helpful as a fidget toy. It can be hard for kids to focus in general, then add in some distance learning and it gets even harder. Having a little something to fidget with can actually help kids pay attention.

Supplies for DIY Stress Balloon Balls

You only need a few things to make these stress balls.

  • Balloon
  • Water
  • Cornstarch

It is super helpful if you have a funnel. If you don’t a rolled up piece of paper can work.

How To Make a Stress Ball Fidget Toy

Step 1: Take your balloon and stretch it out just a little bit. I blow mine up and let the air out a couple of times. You don’t want it too stretchy, but a little bit helps.

Step 2: Add a tablespoon of water to your balloon.

Step 3: Add a tablespoon of cornstarch to the balloon. You will need to use a toothpick or small craft stick to help tap the cornstarch into the balloon. Gently squeeze your balloon to help the cornstarch dissolve in the water.

Step 4: You will want to add another round of cornstarch and squeeze again. Add a little more water, then more cornstarch. You will want to keep doing this until your stress ball is the consistency you want.

The goal is for your balloon to feel hard when you squeeze it quickly, but you can squish it when you slowly apply pressure. (This will make more sense later when we talk about non-Newtonian liquids.

Step 5: You will want to be careful not to overfill your balloon. Keep in mind your child will be squeezing it a lot, so you don’t want it to pop. If you think your balloon is too full, you can always go ahead and pour some water out.

Tie off your balloon and you are ready to use it!

Potential Bonus Idea: Now, I am not an oils person so I haven’t tried this. But I bet you could put a drop of one of your favorite essential oils that has a good scent into your balloon to add an aromatherapy component to your stress ball.

picture of supplies needed to make stress balls and image of corn starch in funnel going into balloon

Safety and Clean Up

This is a pretty safe activity. Obviously you don’t want you or your child to inhale the cornstarch. Be careful with the balloon as well so you don’t pop it splatter the contents everywhere.

You will want to warn your child that if they overstretch the balloon they absolutely could pop it.

Speaking of popping the balloon, let’s talk about how to clean this up. If your ball rips or pops it isn’t really a big deal. It’s just cornstarch and water. You can wipe it up with a paper towel. (You can actually wipe the solution up pretty easily by wiping it hard. It will solidify enough for you to scoop it up a bit.)

If the contents spill onto your carpet do your best to blot it up with a paper towel. If there is still some you can’t get out of the carpet let it dry and vacuum the rest up.


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Non-Newtonian Liquids

So how does this particular stress ball work? You could theoretically make one out of flour and water, or really any sort of powder and maybe a little liquid.

But cornstarch and water make it extra fun. This is because when you make a stress ball with cornstarch and water you are creating oobleck in your balloon.

Oobleck

Oobleck is the name given to non-newtonian liquids because they are so unique they seem like something from a Dr. Seuss book.

Non-Newtonian liquids are liquids who’s viscosity changes based on the force applied to the liquid. If you gently squeeze your stress ball, the ball will be pretty soft. This gentle force means the oobleck behaves like a liquid and slides out of the way.

But if you squeeze really hard, the ball will feel much harder. The added force makes the oobleck act more like a solid. This is known as shear thickening.

What is happening is that the water surrounds the starch molecules in the cornstarch. When there isn’t a lot of force on that solution the water lets everything just slide around. When there is a big force on the solution the starch grains to run into each other, making it feel more rigid.

These DIY stress balls are fun to play with even if you don’t dive into the science of how they work. But I don’t like to skip any chance to add a little STEM into our days. You can learn more about oobleck here: Oobleck’s Weird Properties Demystified.


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Stress Free Kids

This stress balloon has been a great addition to our collection of toys to help deal with stress. It is great for squeezing when overwhelmed or frustrated. And it can be a great way to keep little hands busy while learning on the computer.

This is a simple but effective way to help children learn to manage their emotions in a healthy way. It’s a win.

how to make easy diy stress balls for kids learning at home

Big Feelings: Helping Kids Handle Stress and Tough Feelings

Big feelings are tough to deal with when you are little. This list of posts dives into various methods and techniques to handle the different stresses, frustrations, and behaviors kids face when growing up.

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