Messy Play That Cleans


With a pandemic, hurricane repairs, and allll the school closures, cleaning your cookie sheets may be your very last priority. I relate to and support your thinking. Yet sometimes we need a small win.

I have a 2- and 4-year-old at home that I try to keep busy, with mixed results. And I believe in the benefits of sensory experiences and messy play. Meanwhile, I aspire to describe my parenting as low-maintenance, high-efficiency.

So here’s a parenting tip that I learned purely by accident, based on my love of oobleck and my over-reliance on easy sheet pan meals.

Messy Play That Cleans

Whip up a batch of oobleck. It requires no more than two ingredients. Let your kids play, using your go-to bakeware as a base. It will be clean at the end.

(Not your kids, they will be a mess. Only your pan will be clean.)

What is Oobleck?

Oobleck is a mixture of two-parts cornstarch and one-part water. That’s it! Depending on the size of your pan, try one cup of cornstarch and a half cup of water. You can add food coloring if you’re feeling fancy. Throw in some foam alphabet letters if you choose.

Oobleck is definitely the coolest sensory material. It is a non-Newtonian fluid, which means at rest it’s a liquid, but under pressure, it’s a solid. If this doesn’t make sense, stop reading and go try it for yourself.

How does Oobleck clean?

From a bit of internet research, oobleck’s cleaning abilities are likely tied to its gentle abrasiveness and high absorbency. Once I noticed the surprising results, I did find a few other cornstarch advocates on the internet. No guarantees that it won’t mess up a nonstick surface, but so far I haven’t noticed any problems with my clean-enough pans.

Have you tried oobleck? How did it go?

Maya lives in New Orleans with her husband, two daughters, and their beloved fur baby. She has 15 years of experience working in early childhood education, including roles in schools, local nonprofits, and state government. Maya currently works as a curriculum developer, where she gets to focus on one of her top interests, which is teaching reading. Her other top interests include her girls (of course), podcasts and audiobooks, anything outdoors in warm weather, and experimenting with new recipes.


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