Squishy Circuits for Electric Afternoons

Playdough circuits are the perfect preschool and grade school kids science project to introduce the wonderful world of electricity. Electric playdoh is also a great science fair project, we have squishy circuits lesson plans, as well as recipes for conductive playdoh and insulating playdoh. I love this STEM activity so much because you have much of what you need to make this cool science experiment sitting in your house. A quick trip to your local hardware store or grocery store should surely square you away, and for trickier items, we found you all the links, making shopping easy.

This is a two-part science experiment for kids. The first part involves measuring and cooking the playdough, while the second part involves shaping circuits and lighting light bulbs or LEDs. We suggest doing each part on their own day unless you have an entire day on your hands.

I like to color the conductive playdough red and leave the insulating playdough white, but you can choose any colors you desire! We have the folks over at Squishy Circuits to thank for the wonderful playdough circuits recipes outlined below!

Conductive Playdough Recipe for Squishy Circuits

*Want to skip the cooking? Store bought Playdoh will conduct electricity just as well as this home cooked recipe!

1 cup water
1 1/2 cups Flour (or gluten-free flour if you have an allergy)
1/4 cup Salt (we use the Kosher kind)
3 Tbsp Cream of Tartar (or 9 Tbsp lemon juice)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
Red food coloring
(or any color you choose)

squishy circuits kids science project

  1. Set aside 1/2 cup of flour and mix the remaining ingredients into a medium-sized pot.
  2. Stir continuously over medium heat until it begins to boil. You will notice that the mix begins to clump together some. Keep on stirring.
  3. When the conductive playdough forms a ball, remove it from the heat and put it on a surface with the remaining 1/2 cup of flour.
  4. Cover the ball with flour and pat it down to cool. Have an adult do this part, as the playdough will be very hot initially.
  5. Knead the flour in bit by bit until it is as stiff or squishy as you like it. You can store it in a Ziplock bag
    and refrigerate it for a few weeks for multiple uses.

Insulating Playdough Recipe

*Looking to skip the cooking? Oil-based polymer clays (like modeling clay) will act as the insulating dough. I find these oil based polymer clays work better than the insulating playdough recipe, since the recipe is finicky between being too dry, just right, and too sticky.

1/2 cup distilled water
1 1/2 cups Flour (or gluten-free flour if you have an allergy)
1/2 cup Sugar
3 Tbsp vegetable oil

playdough circuits cool science project

 

  1. Set aside 1/2 cup of flour and mix the remaining flour with the sugar in a medium bowl.
  2. Slowly add the distilled water (a few teaspoons at a time) and stir continually until most of the water has been absorbed.
  3. When the mixture is crumbly but moist knead the mix into one large ball.
  4. Knead in more water until the insulating playdough comes together and has the desired consistency.
  5. Store in a Ziplock bag
    in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

Playdough Squishy Circuits – Fun Kids Science Projects

Now here is the beauty of squishy circuits. You can shape them, mash them, squish them, bend them and…well you get the idea. You can light little light bulbs, LEDs, use or make switches – the sky is the limit when it comes to engineering playdough circuits. You will still need a few things though to make it fun. Here is our suggested shopping list:

Solderless jumper wires with terminals (here are instructions to add terminals onto your wires – it’s a great side project with an adult!)
A Variety of LEDs
Flashlight bulbs and a corresponding base
9V Battery Hat
Batteries

For a little extra fun, add in a motors, switches, and buzzers. You can even get a voltmeter to show your kids what is going on at each part of the circuit!

Once you have everything gathered up it’s time to play! Need a little help starting out with circuits?

Learn how electrons travel in circuits in our circuit obstacle course.

Learn basic circuit building with our LED cards.