I can't begin to count how many batches of slime I've made with my children. It's as if my kids have some compulsion to make the slippery, gooey product as often as humanly possible, and I've gone through more borax in the past two years than I had in the previous 30. Their fascination is never-ending, but why do kids love slime so much? Is it the product of its YouTube fame? Something more? Or is there a simpler answer — perhaps something about children's basic love of the strange and messy?
If you ask your kids why they love slime, you'll probably get an answer along the lines of "it's squishy" or "it's fun to make." When I asked my kids, the answers weren't particularly detailed. My daughter, 7, said that she liked making the slime "fart," and liked mixing the ingredients. My son, 10, said, "I don't know, Mama, it's just kinda chill and feels good to play with." Granted, these are also the children who, when asked what they did at school all day, reply with "nothing," but I was still hoping for a bit more explanation. But in my son's answer lies a clue, according to psychiatrist Tracy Asamoah M.D. who wrote for Psychology Today that slime can help children unwind, unplug, and relax without the help of technology. In fact, it's the antithesis to all the hyper advanced methods most kids use to play today.
There's something to that which rings true for me and my kids. When they're playing with slime, they're not looking at their XBox or iPad. They're engaged with something that is not hooked up to the internet, feeding them data and hyper amounts of input every minute. They're focused on something they created, playing with the most low-tech of toys, and they love it. Sure, they got the recipe from a kid on YouTube, and they're using the lingo of the product — calling it "good ASMR" and saying things like "this would get a million hits" — but it's secondary to the simple joy of playing with the squishy, stretchy slime.
Nelly Curtis, an art therapist working in London, told UK's The Guardian newspaper that the sensations of slime can be therapeutic. “Slime has very sensory, stimulating qualities, which can help regulate emotions," she said. That's the "chill" my son was talking about. The act of stretching, squeezing, and playing with the slime can help you connect in the moment with your mind, settling it down, providing it analog input that relaxes a jittery state.
Why do kids love slime now more than ever before? A part of that is likely due to the massive fame slime has garnered on the internet and through social media sites like Instagram. NPR reported that there were more than five million Instagram posts tagged #slime last year. Now, the number of posts is closer to 12 million.
Asamoah wrote in Psychology Today that another reason kids love slime has to do with the mindful learning aspect of the polymer. Children are able to witness the observable transformation of seemingly disparate products like contact lens solution and cornstarch, and watch them completely transform into the slimy compound. They can then sit with that compound, learning from it and observing it in a way that is accessible to them, as well as interesting.
Love it or hate it, slime doesn't look to be going anywhere any time soon. In this instance, it might be best to just find your favorite recipe and keep the ingredients on hand for those times when you know your kid has had enough screen time and needs to decompress. It might be messy, but it also might be worth it.