Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Diaper Science {and Sensory Experience!}

The other day, the kids were playing out on the deck when they ran to me with a gooey substance in their fingers asking what it is.  At first I was worried that it was something toxic or some type of insect egg and freaked out a little as H (2 years old) wanted to put it in his mouth.  A couple hours later I realized that H's diaper must have torn and this was the absorbent substance from his diaper (called sodium polyacrylate).  This inspired me to try an experiment with my twins (homeschool Kindergarten) to learn about The Science of Diapers...

I found two disposable diapers that H had outgrown and asked the girls how much water they think the diaper could absorb without leaking.  They wanted to use pink water (made with food coloring) and took turns dumping it into the diaper by tablespoons.  We observed as the water absorbed into the diaper, and then turned the diaper over to check for leaking.  We counted 24 tablespoons (1.5 cups) and then stopped to make some additional observations (the diaper had swollen up and felt "mushy").

Next we dissected the diaper to find out what was absorbing the moisture.  The kids were amazed to see the sodium polyacrylate full of moisture.  Interestingly enough, this is the same material that can be used to make fake snow.

We opened up the second (dry) diaper to look at the dry material which was fluffy and resembled cotton, then we added water (this time blue) and watched as the material increased in volume as it absorbed the water and changed texture.

L decided to play with the sodium polyacrylate for another 30 minutes, molding it into various shapes.  It really does have a neat gooey texture and is a lot of fun for a sensory experience (as far as I know it is non-toxic, but shouldn't be given to kids who are putting things in their mouths).  Who knew that exploring the science of diapers was so entertaining?

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