A friend approached me the other day with a box full of biodegradable packing peanuts (affiliate link) left over from a package she received. I was so excited when she started showing me some different things she discovered about them and grabbed a handful to bring home to my son.
The first thing she told me was that they dissolve in water, as they are made from corn starch. So, of course, we had to experiment with this. Sure enough, they do dissolve pretty easily.
Next, she showed me that if you moisten the ends, the peanuts will stick together. We got a sponge, wet it, and squeezed the excess water out so that it was only damp.
We then began making shapes, letters, and abstract sculptures out of the packing peanuts by dabbing one end on the sponge and sticking the peanuts together.
The peanuts stay stuck together too, so your sculptures won't fall apart that easily after the water dries. Make sure not to get them too wet, or they will start to disintegrate in your hand.
We also wondered if we could color the peanuts, so we tried. My son wanted to use his water colors. We did the experiment and, as expected, the packing peanuts got colored, but started to dissolve. Instead, we decided to use markers. You won't be able to color every last inch, but it definitely helps create the multicolored effect. We colored our peanuts after they were already assembled, but may color some before-hand next time. Our fingers did get a little messy from holding the peanuts as we colored them. Just be sure that if you wash the marker off your fingers, you dry your hands well before using the peanuts again!
If desired, your sculptures can be dismantled and the peanuts reused provided they aren't saturated. We love recycled art around here (check out our K-Cup mobile post), so we were excited to reuse this packing material. These packing peanuts are great fun, good for fine motor development, and are also non-toxic and static free! Happy sculpting!
Here are some other fun recycled art projects: