Pediatrics Will Keep You Young: The Latest Kid Trend

Alok S. Patel, MD


August 29, 2017

Sometimes, as a pediatrician, I feel like the fun police. Every time a new trend pops up, I immediately check whether there's a reason to blow the whistle for safety reasons.

The latest fad on my mind is slime. Parents ask me whether making slime is safe, because this stuff is everywhere. There are hundreds of do-it-yourself videos on Instagram and YouTube. Kids are even making their own variations and selling it at school.

But before I sound off on safety, I set out to learn slime manufacturing from an expert.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Slime

Slime With Borax

Dr Patel and Payton demonstrating the manufacture of slime.

  • Mix 1 teaspoon of borax with 1 cup of hot water, and stir until dissolved.

  • Empty one medium-sized container of white glue into a plastic container.

  • Squirt in shaving cream; the amount depends on the degree of fluffiness desired.

  • Add two squirts of hand soap.

  • Add food coloring.

  • Stir vigorously.

  • Pour in the water/borax solution (the activator) a small amount at a time. Too much will make rubbery slime.

  • Knead.

  • Play!


So, this stuff is awesome. Any constructive, scientific hobby is already a winner to me. And with the right precautions and common sense, making slime is perfectly safe.

If you Google how to make slime or if you watched me get my slime certification from my 12-year-old mentor, then you know that borax is a popular ingredient. Some parents freak out when they hear this, and the Internet doesn't always do a great job of easing "borax fear."

I remind parents that borax is a naturally occurring chemical that is used in cosmetics, detergents, and lotions. It is totally safe for skin contact in low concentrations.

There was an incident involving an 11-year-old girl who got third-degree burns on her hands from playing with slime,[1] and that's a pretty scary story. But tell everyone to relax. In this case, it is suspected that the borax wasn't diluted properly. Like many other household cleaners, borax is alkaline, and thus it can cause burns—but only in high concentrations or from prolonged exposure. Young children are at increased risk because of their thinner skin. However, if diluted properly in slime, there shouldn't be any issue.

Also, parents should know that borax is an eye irritant, can cause pulmonary problems if inhaled, and is obviously toxic to ingest. After all, it is an ingredient in rat poison.

In kids, an accidental ingestion is more likely to cause abdominal symptoms. Just like for any other household chemical, parents should keep the borax in safe storage until it is slime time.

We don't have a lot of studies looking at long-term borax exposure in children, probably because before slime, kids weren't playing in borax mines. Because we don't know, some experts suggest that kids should limit slime use to reduce their cumulative exposure.

But really, kids are going to find it and play with it regardless. So instead, I tell parents to know the signs of borax toxicity, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, or skin rashes. When in doubt, seek medical attention or call poison control. Such symptoms as seizures, central nervous system depression, and dysrhythmias are rare and only occur in cases of massive ingestions.[2]

For parents of toddlers or special-needs children, making slime can also be a fun, tactile experience. But for safety's sake, maybe we can ditch the borax. Because let's be real: Some kids eat everything.

Fortunately, there are several borax-free slime recipes out there. Some use cornstarch, skim milk, or Nutella®. I saw one recipe with Metamucil® and Kool-Aid. That sounds like its own disaster—but hey, it's nontoxic.

Also keep in mind that some slime concoctions use beads, glitter, and Styrofoam, so parents should be aware of the choking hazard.

So, in summary, I'm all for slime. As long as parents use common sense and take the necessary precautions, it's a totally safe and fun activity.

And it's science! If kids want to play with polymers instead of video games, I'm all for it.

Oh, but please: Remind folks to wash their hands. Not only because of the chemicals involved, but because who knows what type of pathogens can hitch a ride on this mess.

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