What are the benefits of slime?It is true that slime has some downsides: it’s messy, it can be expensive, and it can get tiring to keep sacrificing bowls and utensils to a child’s slime-making pursuits. On the other hand, making and playing with slime can have some real benefits for kids, including the following:
Today’s children have less time to play outside, shorter school recess, and more screen-based time than the generations before them. All of this equates to fewer opportunities to be messy. When was the last time you saw a child make a mud pie? “Messy” play experiences, like slime, are a form of sensory play that enriches a child’s awareness of their bodies and senses. Kids need this kind of play to grow and develop, and many children aren’t getting enough.
Slime helps kids get in touch with almost all the senses:
they focus on how it feels, sounds, looks, and smells. This can lead to more self-awareness, as well as awareness about the world around them. Sensory play also helps children to develop: it’s been shown to boost language skills, problem solving skills, and cognitive abilities. The unmet need kids have for this kind of healthy play may explain the current obsession with slime.
Slime promotes mindfulness and grounding
When a child is focused on the tactile experience of playing with slime, they aren’t focused on their thoughts. Getting immersed in a sensory activity, like slime, can help kids focus on their experience in the present moment, rather than worrying about the future or replaying the past events of their day.
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware and accepting of what is happening in the present. It’s a simple concept, but it can be difficult to do. Mindfulness is often taught to adults and children as a way to handle overwhelming feelings like anxiety, and to help people feel more relaxed and focused in daily life. Focusing on body sensations is one way of practicing mindfulness, and so slime play can be a mindful experience for kids.
Grounding skills are anything that a person can do to help them feel more “rooted” or “grounded’ in the present, rather than allowing their mind to drift elsewhere. Grounding skills are often used with people following a trauma, to help them feel more secure and manage flashbacks. Sometimes, people are coached to give themselves a strong sensory experience, like a hot shower or holding a cold ice cube, as a form of grounding. Although it’s not exactly a grounding technique, I think slime provides a similar sensation that could have a grounding effect for kids.
At what age do kids become obsessed with slime?As far as I can tell, kids of almost every age are interested in slime. It’s one of the only activities in my office that appeals to preschoolers as well as preteens. Slime is so much a part of kid culture right now that children of all ages know what it is. I have even had older teens request to go to the playroom to try out making slime. Interestingly, slime is becoming increasingly popular with adults, too: a pop-up shop just opened in New York City targeting grown-up fans of slime. It seems like everyone could use more sensory play in their lives, regardless of age.
Can slime ever be dangerous?
Some slime recipes include ingredients like Borax, which are not safe to eat and can cause irritation to the skin in large quantities. I recommend that young children should always be supervised when playing with slime, and it should be stored safely away from toddlers and young children who might be tempted to eat it. For most people, the small amount of Borax in slime is not likely to cause irritation, but I always wash my hands (and children’s hands) when finished playing, just in case.
Slime in play therapy
I always keep slime ingredients on hand in my therapy playroom. It’s a great way to break the ice when welcoming a new child into play therapy. Because the sensory element of slime is relaxing, it can help kids relax and feel more comfortable in a new situation. Slime can also help kids to self-soothe after a session that has been “deep” or difficult. It can give children a sense of control over their environment, since they get to control what goes into the mix. Finally, it’s just plain fun for kids, and fun in itself can be therapeutic. I find that many kids really enjoy slime for the first few sessions in therapy, and then are ready to move on to other things.
I specialize in working with children, adolescents, and families. I am one of the few Certified Play Therapists in Toronto; am a Certified Trauma Assessor; and am an EMDR Therapist.