Play Time Ideas – Play Dough – Make it Special

By Gayle Geisenheimer

Bringing out the play dough always brings a few smiles at my house. The play clay available in the stores comes in bright colors with fancy (and expensive) kits and tools. Try making homemade play dough. It’s easy to prepare a few large batches. It works well for me because I usually have a “large batch” of kids in the yard too.

Gather these ingredients: Flour, Salt, Food Coloring, vegetable oil and Cream of Tartar

In a two quart saucepan add 1 cup of flour, 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar and 1 cup of salt. Mix dry ingredients together. Measure 2 cups of water (with two drops of the liquid food coloring of your choice added) Drop in two tablespoons of vegetable oil and stir to mix. Add the liquids slowly to the dry ingredients in the saucepan and stir till combined. Heat over medium heat stirring often until the dough begins to form,starts to pull away from the side of the pan, and becomes a bit dry. Remove from heat and place on counter or board. Knead until smooth and cool. Keep cooled dough in plastic containers or plastic bags to keep soft and “playable”

Now, forget the fancy plungers and character kits sold in the store. Use a shoe box or Plastic storage box to create a special kit your kits will love. Look through the kitchen drawers, you’ll be sure to find some safe gadgets to inspire creative dough play. My kit contains two small rolling pins, some rounded plastic knives, spoons, melon ball gadgets and a collection of plastic lids and cookie cutters. Boys and girls love rolling out the dough and cutting out the different shapes, gingerbread boys and animal shapes. They use the melon ball utensil to form meatballs and cut strips of dough with the plastic knives. Search neighborhood yard sales for cookies cutters and plastic trays and such for your homemade fun dough collection. I also include Styrofoam meat trays (trays on which you get meats & produce at the market) I put my trays through the dishwasher to make certain they are germ free for the little ones. These trays make a great surface for each child to roll out his play dough and/ or collect and display the “cookies” and other goodies they make. Add some plastic candle holders or any cake decorating goodies you’ve saved over the years. Children enjoy adding these to their “pretend” cakes and pastries.

Most often I observed the kids using the old cupcake trays and cookie sheets to “bake” their creations in their imaginary ovens.

Do you think only girls will like making cookies and play clay pies? You’ll find the little guys are just as interested in pretend baking.

There are of course many things children will want to do with their play dough. You may want to try this with your mixture if your little one needs some help learning to cut with scissors, or needs to strengthen his/her hands. I was once caring for a young boy who, according to the Pre-K Teachers, had trouble cutting with scissors. The paper seemed to always slip out and he had a weakness in his hands. Cutting play dough is an excellent exercise for this problem. I rolled the dough into long robes and had the youngster use scissors to cut the clay into small pieces.

The idea was a good one. The child’s cutting improved; he gained some strength in his hands and most importantly, loved the activity!

When I play with the children I find they enjoy rolling out the dough and making their own pizzas and meatballs. Hotdogs, tacos and cupcakes are next on the list of favorite things to make with the mixture. Give these ideas a chance at your house and invent some news ones too.

I only use play dough at the table on the deck whenever weather permits. When my children were small, I learned quickly the mess it makes in carpeting. So that would be my only advice about limiting its use…otherwise the sky is the limit with home made dough. Children have great ideas for using the mix for creating a good time. Make a batch today – and let the fun begin!

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Copyright 2005
Gayle Geisenheimer
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