Recently my juniors participated in a Girl Scout Mall Show, where the theme was Science: Serious and Silly. I’m a big fan of science and love hands-on activities for kids, so I thought this project would be a big hit . . . and it was! We were anticipating 400+ Girl Scouts and I think we helped just about every one of them make a ice pack. It was a super easy, inexpensive and useful project; it can be done for one, a few or many children making it a great homeschool or VBS project.
For each girl in my troop, I needed:
- a zip-top snack size plastic baggie (snack size is about half that of sandwich size)
- a small disposable diaper (sodium polyacrylate)
- a quarter cup of rubbing alcohol
- a cup of water
- a black permanent marker (and orange if you want to color in the nose)
- a paper printout of a snowman (a b&w “coloring book” image, sized and trimmed to fit inside of your baggie)
- a section of duct tape (long enough to cover the open edge of the baggie)
For a LARGE group, I ordered the following materials online:
- 3″ x 5″ 4 Mil Clear Zip Lock Bags, 5 Packs of 100 (the thicker plastic is more durable)
- 2lb bag of Small Polymer at Watersorb.com (call if you have questions – super nice)
First you will need to decorate your baggie. I slipped a print out of a snowman in the baggie so the girls could trace the outline using the permanent markers. We used another image of a more famous snowman for the Disney fans in my troop, but I don’t want to get into sharing that. 🙂 You can have the girls trace or draw just about anything . . . or nothing at all. Fill in the orange nose first, then trace the outline with black marker to keep from ruining your orange markers. Once the image is traced, pull the paper out and you are ready to fill your baggie.
Now you will need to “harvest” the sodium polyacrylate from the diaper. This can be messy and might be done more efficiently by an adult than by younger scouts. A quick web search of “making snow with diapers” videos can give you a visual on how to do this. A small diaper gave us about half teaspoon, which was enough to fill our baggie with gel. I am not a big fan of waste, so I would suggest buying a small quantity of sodium polyacrylate online if you are doing it with a group of girls.
Put the sodium polyacrylate into the baggie. Pour in the rubbing alcohol and water, CAREFULLY work the air out of the baggie, and zip close. If the rubbing alcohol drips on the outside of the baggie, it will smear your snowman decoration. Watch as the polymer quickly turns to gel. You might have to gently poke at the baggie a bit to mix it up, but wait a few minutes before adding any more powder or liquid. It will take a few minutes to “clump” up. One of my girls suggested taping the baggies shut with a piece of duct tape folded over the open end to keep little fingers from making a mess. When finished, you can store in the refrigerator or freezer. The rubbing alcohol should keep the gel from freezing solid.
The mixture is non-toxic; however, I will warn you NOT to get it into your pipes if the bag breaks. This stuff will continue to swell if exposed to more water. The place I bought it from suggested mixing it with your potted plant soil to help keep your plants moist.