Squishy Circuits was a STEM Night crowd favorite – everyone from preschoolers to parents enjoyed playing with this easy-to-do circuitry. Everyone learned how electricity and currents work by creating and testing circuits with a play dough-like material.
Electricity flows through a path called a circuit, which is made up of conductors like copper, gold, and other metals. In this activity, the dough conducts the current of the 9 volt batteries to LEDs so children can safely explore electricity.
The supplies for this are inexpensive and easy to get if you don’t already have them at home:
- 9-volt batteries (we recommend using 3 or more)
- Colored LEDs ($10 for 125)
- Conducting squishy “dough”
- Optional: Black and red coated copper wires
The most challenging part of the activity is making the dough, which is essentially the same as play dough! Here’s how to make it:
- 2 C all purpose flour (plus more as needed)
- 1/4 C salt
- 1/5 Tbsp cream of tartar ($10 for 10 ounces)
- 2 packets of 0.15 oz. Kool Aid ($15 for a pack of 48)
- 1 C boiling water
- 1.5 Tbsp canola, corn, or other vegetable oil
- Optional: Food coloring as needed (if you’re using a box of 4 dye colors, you can mix the dyes in different combinations)
- In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all dry ingredients (flour, salt, cream of tartar, Kool-Aid)
- Add 1.5 Tbsp of vegetable oil, 1 C of boiling water, and the desired food coloring to the dry ingredients
- Stir with a spoon
- As the dough cools, knead it
- Add water or flour as needed until it is a play dough-like texture
- Store in an airtight container
- Refrigerate until needed – this dough can last a week or more for repeated fun!
Making the dough is pretty easy and using it for squishy circuits is even easier! Put the dough, LEDs, and batteries on a plastic coated table or plastic table cloth to prevent the dough from sticking to surfaces. Experiment with making circuits to get the LEDs to light up. If you want, you can add red and black coated copper wires to the ends of the 9 volt batteries (These optional wires give a more professional feel to the activity and prevents the ends of the batteries from clogging up with the dough. However, for greater simplicity, you can plug the batteries right into the dough.)
During this activity, kids will observe how they need to make a complete circuit to light up the LEDs. They can connect multiple batteries and LEDs as well as creatively shape the dough. If the LEDs don’t light up, play around with the where the positive and negative ends of the batteries connect to the dough. For more detailed information about Squishy Circuits and electricity, check out Science Buddies.
This fun, safe, open-ended activity can provide hours of exploration!