The Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation Beanie illustration

HomeAbout SparkLabActivities and experimentsInventor profilesResources

SparkLab logo

  Activities & Experiments

beaker icon

A polymer is made up of tiny molecules in long, repeating chains. Think of a chain made out of construction paper links, or one made from paper clips hooked together. Polymers are all around us-even in our own bodies! Polymers are found in DNA, hair, cotton, paint, concrete, glass, and plastics.

With the help of a parent or teacher, you can make your own polymer with these simple supplies:

  • White glue
  • Water
  • Powdered laundry detergent
  • Small cup
  • Teaspoon
  • Spoon for stirring
  • Paper towels
  1. Place 1 teaspoon of glue into a small cup.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of water.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of powdered detergent.
  4. Stir the mixture.
  5. Add 2 teaspoons of glue.
  6. Add 1 teaspoon of detergent.
  7. Stir the mix until a white glob forms.
  8. Take the glob out of the cup.
  9. Place it between two paper towels.
  10. Press down gently to soak up the water.

Examine your polymer and answer these questions:

What does your polymer look like?

What does it feel like?

Does it bounce?

Can you stretch it?

Can you mold it?

What words would you use to describe your polymer?

Visit the online Invention at Play exhibit to learn about Stephanie Kwolek and her invention of a polymer called Kevlar®.

Download this experiment »