I’ll be honest. I wasn’t trying to make Gak™. I was trying to make silly putty. After failing miserably using a number of the recipes I found online, I decided to just switch my objective and declare success.
What’s the difference? In my opinion, silly putty should be moldable. If I want to make a creature out of silly putty, I can. With this stuff, no matter how thick I make it, you just can’t. Therefore, I went in the other direction. I wanted to know how runny I could make it without having it be too sticky. I tried different ratios of glue, water, and borax and combined them in different ways until we were finally satisfied. (If you’re worried your child might try eating the gak, this recipe probably isn’t for you. However, you would have to eat a lot to actually get sick, so for most kids, this recipe is totally fine.)
The final substance was slimy, but not sticky. Moldable, but still runny. You can form it into a ball, and then watch as it runs through your fingers.
My 4 year old daughter has literally played with this stuff for hours. She’s my kid that likes to get messy and even though this homemade gak doesn’t leave a mess, she never gets tired of it.
In case you’re wondering, you can NOT replace the recommended Elmer’s glue with washable glue. We had a small bottle of washable glue and decided to try it to see what would happen. The consistency is just all wrong.
See below for step-by-step instructions for making a single batch as well as advice for doing this activity with a large group of kids.
- 4 ounces of Elmer’s Glue-All Multi-Purpose Glue (Washable won’t work right)
- 1 teaspoon borax (Note: as with soap, baking soda, salt, etc., this could be dangerous if ingested in large quantities)
- water (you will ultimately add 6 to 8 ounces depending on how runny you want the final product to be)
- food coloring
Supplies & Tools:
- disposable cup
- spoon for stirring
- measuring glass
- You could theoretically, pour the glue into your measuring cup, then use a spatula to pour the glue into a cup. However, you can use this trick to keep your measuring glass clean. First, measure 4 ounces water. (This is the same as 1/2 cup.)
- Next pour the water into your disposable cup and use your marker to mark the water line.
- Dump out the water, then refill the cup to the line with glue.
- Next, pour 4 to 6 ounces water in with the glue. Less water makes a more firm gak, but the runnier (6 ounce) gak was more fun to my kids.
- Add some food coloring to the water glue/mixture and stir. We added about 8 drops, but you can add more or less depending on your preference. Stir until it is well mixed.
- Separately, mix 1 teaspoon of borax with 2 ounces (or a 1/4 cup) of hot water. Stir until as much is dissolved as possible. It is not necessary to boil the water first. A few undissolved grains will not noticeably affect the texture.
- Add the borax/water mixture to the glue/water/food coloring mixture, then stir. It seems to work best if you add a little borax/water, stir, then repeat 2 or 3 times until it’s all gone. However, if you add it all at once, it’ll still work out okay. You just might need to stir for a little longer.
- As you stir, it should start out by sticking to the spoon. Keep stirring.
- Is there liquid left? Keep stirring! This is where I failed the first few times. I gave up while there was still liquid in my cup. If you stir long enough, it should all turn into gak. Don’t worry, it shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes.
- Take it out of the cup and enjoy your perfect homemade gak!
Even though you can’t mold it very well, it is great for leaving impressions. You can also stretch it, break it, and let it run through your fingers. It is so satisfying!
Instructions for Large Group
If you plan to make this recipe with several kids, there are a few things you could do to simplify the process:
- First, you could pre-mark all the cups to the glue fill line. When I did this with my kids, I got lucky in that the fill line corresponded to the bottom of the grooves in the cup, so I didn’t even need to mark them.
- You can personalize the recipes by allowing kids to choose the colors to add to their cup.
- After you’ve added the glue, water, and food coloring to the cups, each child can stir their own cup.
- To save time, you can make the borax mixture in a large batch. Multiply the number of children by 2 to get the ounces of water you should use. Add a teaspoon of borax for each child. For example, with my 3 kids, I mixed 3 teaspoons borax into 6 ounces of hot water. I microwaved the water before adding the borax so that as much borax would be dissolved as possible. I didn’t want to risk having too many grains settling to the bottom, leaving some kid’s cups with not enough borax.
- You could measure out 2 ounces of borax mixture for each child OR you can just add a little bit at a time to each kids cup until it all turns to gak. To save time, I opted to go the second route, but one of my kid’s cups did not get as thick as the others. Next time, I will likely make a little extra of the borax solution to make sure everyone gets enough.
Even though my oldest child’s gak was the runniest and stickiest, all my kids probably had the most fun playing with his. If you wanted to make sure no kid ends up with gak this sticky however, I would probably start off by adding only 4 or 5 ounces instead of 6 ounces of water to each cup. I would also make sure to have a little extra of the borax solution on hand in case any of the batches turned out like this.
If you still have an extra sticky batch, it’s not really a big deal. Somehow I got some on my clothes and it washed out easily. Kids might just have to wash their hands after playing with it.
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