There is no need to run to the store, as it was easy and fun to make our own homemade play-dough at the park! As Amanda suggested in her Outdoor Activitiy Blog, it’s a lot easier to deal with the mess of making play-dough by taking this activity outside, so that’s exactly what we did this week. The activity got even messier than expected when it started raining midway through our session. It was only me and the LOs I look after for this week’s “Play-Dough Time” in the park, but that probably had more to do with the ominous gray sky than the messy fun of play-dough making.
To get started with our “Play-Dough Time,” I began by laying out a blanket and all the materials to make play-dough from scratch:
- 1.5 cups of flour (gluten free if needed for your child)
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/2 cup of cold water
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- Food coloring (mixed in with water)
- Large bowls and utensils for mixing
- Cookie cutters and cookie sheet to play with it after
- Ziplock bag to take it home
The children helped me pour all of the ingredients in to a bowl and stir it up. After I showed them how they could squeeze it and flatten the play-dough, they had fun manipulating the dough and exploring its texture. When we made our first ball of play-dough, we added all the ingredients except for the food coloring and then mixed it up in the bowl; then after we added a few drops of food coloring in the middle of the dough ball and kneaded it around. We learned that this didn’t fully color the play-dough but instead made a tie-dye looking effect, so on the second batch we added the food coloring to the water before mixing it in with the dry ingredients. This round turned out much better, and the color covered the play-dough evenly. If I had been working with older kids, I would have asked them how we could solve the problem to encourage some cognitive thinking and problem solving techniques. The children could create a hypothesis based on their previous observation of the food coloring.
While playing with the first batch of our homemade play-dough, one of them tried a bite and quickly learned it was not very tasty; oh the wonders of cause and effect learning! The other LO continued to stir the play-dough in the bowl, as if he were pretending to cook. I wanted to show my LOs how they could make imprints in their play-dough with pinecones, rocks, and other natural items commonly found at the park, but the rain cut short our park time. The activity was far from over though; we finished up playing with our park-made play-dough back at home!
When we were ready to wrap up and store our homemade play-dough to play with another day, we added a damp paper towel to the ziplock bag to make sure that it wouldn’t dry out. If you plan to save your play-dough for a long time, remember to change out the paper towel occasionally so that it doesn’t get moldy. The warm weather isn’t over just yet, so invite friends to the park and explore “Play-Dough Time” with shared materials and happy children. Come back next week to see what we have planned for more Art in the Park!
Kelsey Plimpton is currently a nanny in Boston and has been nannying for five years. She started as a part-time nanny while earning her associates degree in Early Childhood Education. Kelsey has worked with ages 2 months to 15 years in both nannying and babysitting positions, since the age of 13. While working with children she follows their interests to help create activities targeting developmental goals. She blogs with SitterCycle.com and is the Early Childhood Coordinator.