A few weeks ago, we spent a lovely afternoon at the Daly Arts Court for Culture Days. There were Culture Days activities taking place all over the city, but the Daly Arts Court was where we wanted to be. Or rather, where I was sure the kids would prefer to be if they only knew what was waiting for them.
And what was that?
Adventures in squishiness, that was what. Oh, and LED lights, too.
We were greeted outside the building by these lovely steampunk stilt walkers:
Outside, people were printing on t-shirts with pieces of old rubber tires. If you had the patience for it, you, too, could choose an old logo t-shirt from their stash and make it look like it had been run over by a car.
Inside, we found circus performers who were hanging upside down from the ceiling by a long loop of fabric. If you were just a little bit brave, you, too, could try your hand at twisting yourself into the fabric like a pretzel and hanging upside down. (I was not brave.)
In another room, there was button-making and needle felting and weaving. Our B was fascinated by the weaving machines and we wound up spending quite a bit of time learning how it all works. Somehow, I see a loom in our future.
But the real draw — the entire reason I had chosen to visit the Daly Arts Court on this fine autumn day — was to play with play dough. But not just any play dough, oh no!
Electrically conductive play dough.
Oh, what fun you can have with a battery, a few LEDs, and a handful of squishy, squashy, electrically conductive dough! It didn’t take the kids long before they were completely immersed in the learning.
About 9.2 millisecconds, to be precise.
The coloured dough is conductive, thanks to its salt content, and electricity readily passes through it. The uncoloured dough contains no salt and therefore acts as an insulator, preventing electricity from flowing through. Together, they can be squished and smushed and rearranged until you have the most fascinating of electrically-charged creatures.
Of course, a battery only holds so much juice. With one LED, you get a nice, clear, bright light.
With half a hundred LEDs, eventually they dim to almost nothingness. (Though that, apparently, it absolutely perfectly delightful. Plus it makes for some great science learning.)
The kids weren’t the only ones to have fun. The Man We Call Dad built an architectural wonder of a structure with smooth lines and easily visible current pathways using nothing but conductive dough.
As for me? I built a dragon.
We spent well over an hour playing with dough and talking with the lovely people from ArtEngine.
And then B and I went down the hall so we could try our hands at belly dancing.
(No. That isn’t me. That’s the instructor.)
All good things must come to an end, of course, and this day was no different. We left, we had dinner, and we headed towards home… with a small stop along the way to buy some LEDs. Wires, too. And batteries. And buzzers. And motors.
Well, because conductive dough is absolutely simple to make for yourself, you see, and then we could play and play and play as long as we desired. And we could invite the neighbour kids to join us.
Which we did.
They played for hours.
If you would like to try your hand and building your own squishy circuits, you can watch the TED talk video and download the dough recipes and, with a battery and a few LEDs, you’ll be having fun in no time at all.