Inside: Kids love to play! Making your own bouncy balls (from Borax) is the perfect way to combine play and learning. Plus, these balls are a blast for the whole family.
I am on a major DIY-toys kick lately. Time marches on mercilessly, and I am acutely aware that soon enough, even my youngest child will be too old to have fun with these simple homemade toys.
It’s so easy to bring a smile to your child’s face when they are little. Just a few minutes of your time and a couple of common household items that you probably already have in the house, and you are all set for an exciting adventure.
We’ve made bouncy balls many times, and this one is our favorite recipe. If you’ve made slime with us, you know that it’s the same magic ingredients: borax and glue.
If you’ve never done this before or didn’t like the recipe you tried in the past, give our bouncy balls a try.
Fine Motor Skills: Why They Matter
There’s a reason children love grabbing round objects like bouncy balls. Why? Because this motion is extremely beneficial for the development of small muscles in the hands, fingers, and wrists: both in terms of flexibility and strength.
When kids squeeze the DIY bouncy ball, muscles contract, and nerves are stimulated, creating a pleasing sensation. It also makes hands stronger, improves brain-muscle integration (i.e., to carry out a planned action, crossing a mid-line, hand-eye coordination), and prepares children for more advanced skills like writing cursive, chopping carrots, tying shoelaces, and playing piano.
In addition, when children have the ability to do tricky everyday tasks like buttoning a shirt or zipping up a coat without asking adults for help, it creates a sense of agency and boosts their self-confidence.
It makes a huge difference!
Take it from me, children who feel good about themselves are much easier to parent. For example, they are less likely to wallow in self-pity and take much less time to bounce back after making a mistake.
And finally, research suggests that squeezing small balls is beneficial for the nervous system because it releases tension. That’s why stress balls have been so popular lately (I have a couple in my desk drawer right now 🙂
7 Tips to Encourage Fine Motor Skill Development in Kids
Be sure to check out a fine motor skills checklist for each age range. You can easily help your child build fine motor skills at home by providing opportunities to…
- Squeeze and play with playdough (homemade or store-bought)
- Use scissors (my daughter likes to cut images out of junk mail magazines)
- Thread objects onto a string (try threading Cheerios and then hang them outside your window for birds)
- Put together puzzles
- Draw, scribble, or write with crayons, pencils, markers, and paintbrushes
- Do crafting projects
- Bake (my favorite!) It actually requires a lot of hand movements, from kneading the dough (my kids just helped me make keto tortillas) to whisking and stirring.
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How to Make the Best Bouncy Balls from Borax
What you need
1 tablespoon of borax (found in the laundry section of the grocery store)
1/2 cup of warm water
1 tablespoon of Elmer’s clear glue
1 Tablespoon of Elmer’s glitter glue
Note: If you don’t have both clear and glitter glue, use 2 tablespoons of whatever you have.
What to do
Stir one tablespoon of Borax into ½ cup of warm water and keep stirring until Borax dissolves (= becomes incorporated into the liquid).
2. Add glue
Stir glue into the Borax solution. We had great success with 2 Tablespoons of glitter glue. But our favorite is 1 Tablespoon of glitter glue combined with 1 Tablespoon of clear glue.
As soon as the mixture starts to easily pull off the walls of the bowl, you can stick your hands in and squish and squeeze until it doesn’t stick to your fingers anymore. The more you handle the mixture, the harder it will become. Roll it between your hands to give it a ball shape.
You are done! Time to bounce those balls!
If your kids are like mine, they will probably want to do a bounce competition. You can download and print our Record Sheet here to make it official.
The Science of Bouncy Balls
The key to substances like rubber, slime, and glue is their nature as polymers. This means that the atoms form very long molecular chains that, though individually, are very strong indeed, can also slip past each other easily and form many shapes. This combination of both strength and flexibility is what makes something like rubber so incredibly useful!
So why is Borax so critical? What even is Borax? Check out my expanded explanation in this Slime post.