Don’t Buy Floam

For months now, my daughter has wanted me to buy Floam. Do you know what Floam is? If you’ve watched Nickelodeon at all, you would have heard that it was the best craft material out there for toddlers and preschoolers. Play-Doh? Old hat. Modeling clay? Too boring. Foamies? So two years ago. Felt people? Paper dolls? Magnetic games? You’ve got to be kidding. Floam is the only amusement your child needs.

For those of you who haven’t seen the commercials or heard the hype or suffered the begging and whining of your preschooler, Floam is micro-beads in a substance that can best be described as slime. I suppose this has some sensory enjoyment for toddlers and preschoolers, but then so could playing in a bowl of oatmeal. Floam is mostly marketed as being used to cover various previously boring objects and making them more exciting while providing hours of endless amusement. Floam is described as being non-toxic and non-sticky on surfaces such as the floor, ceiling, table, and skin it comes into contact with. But if you let it harden, Floam is supposed to coat things like an empty plastic yogurt container and turn it into a thing of beauty. Maybe it could then become a vase, or pencil holder. Maybe you could cover cardboard cutouts with Floam to make picture frames. The possibilities are endless.

You want to know the real truth about Floam? I haven’t seen it work as advertised. First of all, I successfully avoided purchasing it from TV by watching mostly public television. But when we started seeing Floam in the aisles at Wal-Mart, the begging began anew. I enjoy letting my children try new activities to stretch their imagination and explore their senses. So we purchased a tub of Floam. It cost about $7, so I thought it was a bit more expensive than the previously enjoyed Play-Doh, but the price wasn’t too bad for hours of enjoyment.

What really happened when we tried to use Floam? It is a sticky, slimy, greasy-feeling substance filled with little micro-beads made of something that looked like Styrofoam.

It stuck to hands, clothing, table top, and everywhere except the empty juice container we had chosen to cover with Floam for our first project. It does peel off as advertised, which is good. And even though Floam feels greasy between the fingers, it is not. However, it never hardened on our juice container. It merely dripped and sagged and peeled off. It wasn’t fun, either. My four year old found it frustrating as it oozed and slimed and dropped in gobs. My one year old probably would have loved squishing in it. But even though Floam is marketed as non-toxic, I wasn’t ready to let the baby eat it.

You can’t combine colors of Floam to make new colors, or at least no one I know of has successfully done this. It maintains its separate colors and becomes more a mixture of colors than a new color. The Styrofoam beads turn white when you try too long to combine colors, too. Floam also should only be used on a plastic tablecloth or other plastic surface. It sticks to paper and cardboard in a way that rips the paper and cardboard without really hardening and sticking.

And get this. Did you know that when you rinse it off (and really, what else are you going to do with it, spray off with the garden hose out back?) Floam is capable of clogging your pipes. Oh yes, it does eventually harden. After a couple of months or so, when you have called a plumber out and he digs out a hardened, purple substance flecked with Styrofoam micro-beads, you will remember your disastrous attempt at playing with Floam. And that $7 tub of Floam will no longer be a bargain.

There are a lot of other things out there besides Floam to develop hand and finger muscles for your children. Things like modeling clay. If they enjoy sensory stimulation, let them squish in other things like Jello, oatmeal, or pudding. They can even eat off their fingers that way. But I will never again try Floam.

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