A Not-So-Silly Craft Idea: Make Your Own Nutty Putty

nutty putty

A few weeks ago, we turned a rainy day into a pretty good time by making our own play dough. Much as I’d prefer to be outside soaking up what’s left of summer, rain seems to be the standard forecast these days. Still, we managed to find a good time in our usual DIY fashion. This week we tried our hand at a new craft for kids (and adults, too!): homemade nutty putty.

What is nutty putty anyway? You may know it best as Crayola’s Silly Putty. But the story of this classic toy starts during World War II, when rubber shortages were profound. In an attempt to create a viable synthetic rubber, engineer James Wright combined boric acid and silicone oil and discovered the results had interesting properties. It bounced high, stretched far and melted only at high temperatures. Although it didn’t turn out to be the rubber substitute he had hoped for, as a novelty it was a great success. Thus, nutty putty was born and within a few years became the “must have” toy of the 1950’s.

When a friend passed along a recipe she had found for a homemade version, I was intrigued. By combining Elmer’s glue and liquid starch, we enjoyed a revelation similar to that of James Wright. This stuff bounces, it stretches, it lifts pictures out of the funny papers and it doesn’t stick to clothes. This magic has something to do with the glue’s properties as a liquid polymer causing molecules to strand together when introduced to the liquid starch.

Man, I love science.

Ready to give homemade putty a try? It takes just a few minutes, and older kids will have no trouble making their own with adult supervision. Rainy day optional.

putty 1

Pour ½ cup Elmer’s Glue-All into a glass or plastic container.

putty 2

Add food coloring to the glue and stir using a craft stick. Choose any color and add as much as needed to reach the desired effect (we used 20 drops of purple here).


Once the color is even, add ½ cup of liquid starch and stir.


The consistency will soon become rubbery. As soon as the glue “stands up” (as shown), stop stirring and let the mix rest 3-4 minutes to allow the starch to completely permeate the thickening glue.


Remove the putty from the remaining starch and pat with a paper towel to remove excess starch.


Knead the putty until it becomes firm and pliant.


The putty will become less slick and will become firmer the longer it is kneaded. After a couple of minutes, it is still softer than we’re after. Keep kneading!


After 5-10 minutes of kneading, our putty is firm, stretches easily and is ready for action. Pennies to make. Hours of fun. This recipe makes plenty, so be sure to share with a friend!


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