Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Peanut Butter Playdough

You know those healthy, no-bake, 3-ingredient recipes for little balls of vitamin and nutrient filled goodness your kids are guaranteed to devour you see on Pinterest? Yeah, this isn't one of those. This is your classic 3-not-super-healthy-but-plenty-sweet-and-delicious-ingredients Peanut Butter Playdough Recipe. It's easy to make, fun to play with and fun and easy to eat up! We've had success rolling little balls to dip and roll in toppings of your choice, making no-bake toddler-friendly Peanut Butter Playdough Hamentaschen for Purim and it's a great recipe to whip up on an afternoon at home for playing, snacking and maybe even storing for the next few days if you have any left.

Peanut Butter Playdough 

I use my KitchenAid mixer for quick prep if my son isn't helping in the kitchen
He especially loves rolling little balls!

You will need:

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
*This makes a generous amount of dough--I often cut the recipe in half if it's just the two of us playing, but you can also increase the recipe for larger groups

We added some little cookie cutter shapes for added fun

I use our stand up mixer to save on time if I'm prepping ahead, but little ones can also join you in the kitchen to pour in ingredients and mix them by hand (both with a spoon and then literally) until a stiff dough is formed. You can enjoy playing, molding, rolling and even using cookie cutters with this one--if it lasts long enough for that. I'd recommend setting out only a small portion of dough to play with--one that won't give a belly ache if completely consumed, and also so that you are not storing and reusing something that has been through and through even the cleanest of toddler fingers. Should you manage to have any left over, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator and revisit while your child is napping at your leisure. Happy and tasty playing!

Our Peanut Butter Playdough Hamentaschen made a great toddler-friendly version of the popular Purim treat to eat and share with friends last year!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Some More End of the Summer Play Fun: Rainbow Rice Sensory Play

These are the last dog days of summer. Whether that leaves you feeling wistful or (im)patiently awaiting to hear the familiar rumble of school buses trudging up the street early in the morning--or even a bit of both--let's not reinvent the wheel right now. Whatever this pending change of seasons holds for your family--whether it's school, work, holidays, or just a change in temperature (please let it be SOON), there will be plenty of opportunity for novelty and fresh starts. These are the days, rather, that I choose to revisit old favorites. In our house, we are gearing up for our Mommy & Me Homeschool adventure--something that has plenty of novelty to both me and my son, as I've taught preschool out of the house for the better part of the last decade but not yet taught my own preschooler in the house! But as we excitedly count down the days until we embark on this journey, we're enjoying some low key favorite play activities. Ideally these are activities that require minimal prep or prep that my son can help with and enjoy. Ideally they are activities he can sustain with an age appropriate level of independence as I alternate between playing along, being a spectator and preparing materials for the weeks to come. One such activity we've enjoyed these days is this rainbow rice sensory bin:

 Dry rice makes for a fabulous sensory material. Although many moms and teachers (sometimes myself included) have mixed feelings about food items being used for sensory play as opposed to eating and whether this is wasteful, I feel like dry rice is a material that can be used repeatedly and in a variety of ways even if being served on the dinner table isn't one of them. You can use it as it and add cups and scoops for pouring and exploring. You can add cardboard tubes and other recyclables. You can create a small world using small toys and figurines related to a theme for fabulous story telling and dramatic play. You can turn it into a game of I-Spy using magnetic letters or other small objects. You can have plenty of fun (trust me on this one) even adding nothing at all and just enjoying the sensation of scooping and pouring with your hands (or feet if your little one decides to climb right in).

Dry rice is great fun on its own and requires no additives. However, dying it can be a fun activity in and of itself and make for a very colorful result! We dyed this batch of rice late last winter. You can choose one color or make a variety of colors. The best part--little ones can help and it's pretty mess free! Here's how:

You will need:

  • dry white rice, you can decide how much
  • ziplock bags
  • food coloring
  • hand sanitizer
What to do:
  • Decide how many colors you will make and designate a portion of rice in one ziplock bag per color
  • Add a generous amount of food color (I used about 15-20 drops in each bag--the more color, the brighter the shade, so you can experiment with this to reach your desired effect)
  • Add a good squirt of hand sanitzer to the bag--this, believe it or not, helps the color to spread and permanently set in
  • Tightly seal the bag and shake, shake, shake to spread the color and coat the rice--this is the part the little ones will especially enjoy. As an added educational bonus, if you are mixing primary colors to create a secondary color, it's a hands-on visual for teaching this process to little ones!
  • Pour the dyed rice into a foil pan or shallow dish to dry completely before you play to avoid your hands taking on new colors
Fun extension activities:
  • You can use a few drops of a favorite essential oil to add a pleasant aroma to your rice
  • You can use this in a lot of ways for sensory play, but it also makes a great craft material for gluing and making collages
  • We also used some rainbow rice inside an empty plastic bottle to make a great shaker/sensory bottle. I am partial to the small Gatorade bottles and I always duct tape or hot glue the lid on to prevent unwanted emptying of the contents inside
  • You can also dye dried white beans, lentils, popping corn or pasta in the same manner. I've found that larger items require a bit more drying time before being ready for playing.
You can store unused rainbow rice in a ziplock bag or plastic container between play sessions. A drop mat or outdoor work space prevents massive cleanup efforts for the inevitable spills and splashes. Even very little ones can appreciate and help with the task of using a dust brush and pan to help with the sweep up when you're done. Have fun and happy playing!
Here's a peek at our first play sessions with our rainbow rice last spring. I added a variety of small world objects and even a sweet orange scent to relate it to the story of Purim since it was coming up at the time.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Mad Science Monday: Snow in August Small World Scene

We are continuing on our Un-planning, Un-themed, Unadulterated End of Summer Fun with this favorite Unseasonably fun Science/Sensory activity I'm now calling "Snow in August."
Here's a photo of the first time we tried out this activity, on an actual snow day in January!

Before I go into setting up this playful Arctic scene, I'd like to give a shout out to the great source I received the idea from: 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids by Asia Citro, MEd, author as well of the wonderful blog This activity can be found in the small worlds section of the book, under the title "Penguin World." 

Small world play describes activities that often combine sensory materials with figurines, small dolls or other small toys to encourage imaginative play and storytelling. Older preschoolers can truly begin to delve into the abstract end of this and develop strong storytelling skills while even the younger ones can benefit from the earlier development of dramatic play skills not to mention the fine motor practice and sensory skills. Earlier on, small world play may require adult involvement to encourage role-playing and story telling and different ways to use the materials. More and more, adults can step back and little ones can delve into their creative play scenes. These activities can fill a fifteen minute time slot or captivate for hours! Although this one has the potential to be quite messy, they can also be composed of dry (and less messy) materials. For the messier ones, I do recommend use of a drop cloth beneath your work space for easy clean up. When it comes to miniatures and figurines you might add to a small world scene, you can go out and purchase sets of animals and dolls to use for a range of costs, but you can also find a lot of these items at thrift stores, dollar stores, party favors and the occasional box of cereal. In other words, it need not break the bank--better yet, use what you have and don't go crazy, less is often more in small world play. Remember--little ones only have two small hands to play with!

Snow in August Small World Scene

You will need:
  • a large plastic bin, baking dish or container to work from
  • water to prepare your ice (see below)
  • blue food coloring or liquid watercolor
  • cornstarch
  • glass gems (optional, can be found in the floral department of craft or discount stores)
  • plastic penguins, polar bears and other desired Arctic animals

Prepare ahead:
Prepare any or all of the following ice options:
  • Using any plastic storage container, fill with water and add a few drops of blue food coloring or liquid water color. Freeze, preferably overnight for your iceberg (which my son calls an "iceburger").
  • Fill and freeze an ice cube tray as well for additional blocks of ice for building an igloo!
  • Partially fill and freeze water in the base of your plastic bin or baking dish for an ice sheet.
  • You can also have a lot of fun adding crushed ice.
Time to PLAY:
  • Using a shallow bin or baking pan, set up your iceberg and ice blocks as desired. Pour a generous amount of cornstarch over the ice.
  • Add your figurines and Arctic animals and glass gems if using
As little ones play and explore, they will enjoy the soft texture of the cornstarch snow and the cold, slippery ice. The added science bonus that earned this post its Mad Science Monday slot is that as the ice melts, the water will combine with the cornstarch to create a non-Newtonian fluid commonly known in the world of early childhood as Ooblek. This mixture behaves like a solid under pressure but a liquid when left to its own devices and can inspire hours of exploration on its own. In that sense, you can leave the activity for a while if your junior scientist is done playing or you need to tend to something else and then return later to enjoy the Ooblek. Alternatively, if you'd like to reach the Ooblek stages a little bit sooner, you can do what we did this time and add a bit of water to the scene.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Think Outside the Box: How To Get Those Dishes Washed With(OUT) a Toddler Underfoot

How do you get dishes done or dinner on the table without your little ones underfoot? I've recently had some success trying something new. HINT: it's not Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, although has its time and place here, too!
Actually, it's sensory play! Sensory bins are fun for all ages. They are versatile, they can be used repeatedly and in many different ways and they tend to captivate attention for a decent amount of time--even from the youngest little explorers. They can be created at home without breaking the bank using many materials you likely already have and others that can be purchased inexpensively, even at discount/dollar stores. But let's face it, sensory play can get messy! I have a few tried and true tips for this. One is to use a drop mat underneath your work area, whether it's below a table or your bin is directly on the floor. You can use a sheet, a tablecloth (vinyl ones are especially useful if your sensory material is wet), a towel or a shower curtain. Clean up can be as simple as gathering up the mat, shaking contents still usable directly into the bin again for next time or shaking away remnants outside/in the trash. When the drop mat gets too dirty, you can throw it in the wash or, if it's disposable (like a paper tablecloth or plastic liner from a discount store), you can part with it altogether. Another tried and true tip is to take these activities outside. Sometimes, weather doesn't cooperate with this plan, and the heat here has been really unbearable for me. That has admittedly led to a significant decrease in sensory play around here--until I remembered yet another tried and true solution: sensory play in the KITCHEN!

The kitchen, you ask?! Yes, the kitchen! Our kitchen floor is cleaned and mopped more frequently than any other floor in our house, and it's still always needing a good washing again. We live in an apartment and our kitchen space is rather small--especially when you keep a kosher home (two sets of everything and separate prep/cooking areas). Our kitchen also houses our laundry room (well, closet), which, incidentally is also the most frequently used facility in this house that is always needing to be used again. I can almost always find a towel waiting to be washed to throw down on the floor beneath a bin of one of my son's favorite sensory materials. It can be as simple as a plastic bin with soapy water and some dishes for washing, scooping and pouring. The bonus? Your floor is likely to get a good washing in the process and your towels needed to be thrown in the laundry anyway--when playtime is done, dry, toss in the laundry and walk away! Amazingly no matter how many times we've brought this activity out, washing dishes is something my son never tires of. (Why can't I share in that sentiment?) We've had a lot of fun also washing vegetables to prep for a recipe--and then you get the added bonus of your little one having a hand in getting supper on the table, a factor sometimes helpful in making him more likely to try the aforementioned recipe.

Yesterday as part of our UNPLANNED End of Summer Fun, I revisited a favorite theme of ours, Camping IN. We pitched our play tent in the living room, got out our handmade felt fishing set and played the day away. When it was time for me to tackle that stack of dishes in the sink, we took the fun into the kitchen with some Waterbead Ice Cube Fishing.

I prepped the ice cube fishies in the morning--just water, food color (next time I will NOT use orange, it looked a little iffy when melting), and a couple of google eyes in each compartment of an ice cube tray--and popped it in the freezer for later. We had some waterbeads (from the Dollar Tree floral section) we had prepared a few weeks earlier. I prepped his work area with a towel to soak up splatters, added some water and a set of Dollar Tree tongs to our plastic bin (also Dollar Tree), and he had so much fun, he was still playing when the dishes were done. When the fishing was done, I strained out the waterbeads, collected the google eyes to put away for another project and replaced the waterbeads to the bin. I added a few drops of lavender essential oil for some calm evening play. My son still wanted to use the tongs with them--what great fine motor practice!

Sensory bins are such a versatile and developmentally important activity for children, but they need not break the bank. There are a lot of wonderful sensory tables out there for purchase and a lot of creative ways to fill them beyond the classic water or sand. Here are some more outside-of-the-box ways we incorporate sensory play here:

  • a large and shallow plastic bin with a lid can be put directly on the floor for play--little ones often have fun climbing right in! They can also be placed on a child's table for standing play
  • smaller plastic basins, bowls or disposable baking pans can make for great sensory bins as well--plus they are easily transportable
  • I keep a few shoebox sized plastic bins with ready-to-go sensory materials to use indoors or out
  • Even pencil box sized containers with lids can be used for travel sized sensory bin play--one of my favorites is one we keep filled with kinetic sand and seashells collected on a family vacation
  • Overall storage of sensory materials can easily be done in plastic containers with lids or ziplock bags
  • I keep a stash of recycled plastic containers, cardboard tubes, and discount store scoops, shovels, bowls, cups, plastic spoons, etc., for scooping, pouring and exploring
  • Plastic animals, figurines, and other such toys and miniatures make for great small world additions to sensory play
And now for some in and out of the box filler ideas:

  • water is a classic and always fun--you can add a bit of dish soap for washing and toss in a sponge or you can add some food color and jars/containers for pouring and color mixing exploration
  • rice
  • dry beans or lentils
  • dry pasta
  • waterbeads
  • pom poms
  • glass craft stones
  • flour
  • shaving cream
  • play sand
  • soil
  • dry corn kernels
  • straw
  • dry oats
  • items collected from nature (leaves, pine cones, acorns, twigs)
Happy playing, and may your fun stay inside the bin but outside of the box!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Play Theme: Apples to Apples!

Whether you're in the back-to-school mindset, thinking ahead to Autumn, getting ready for Rosh Hashanah, or using them as a theme unto themselves, apples are a favorite theme of mine to explore year after year around this time. Just as holidays and seasons cycle year after year, I tend to recycle themes year after year. There are always new ways to explore and new activities to try. Additionally, repeating activities from a previous year can reveal a whole new set of skills and developmental milestones. We are a few weeks away yet from beginning our Apples theme in preparation for Rosh Hashanah, but here's a peek at some of our favorite play activities from last year to whet your appetite in the meantime...

Happy playing and remember, an apple a day keeps the little ones at play!

Learning the parts of an apple as well as its life-cycle from seed to tree to the fruit we all know and love becomes a hands-on experience when explored in a sensory table or bin. Dried lentils, oats, or rice all make great filler. I provided magnifying glasses to assist my detectives in spying the parts of an apple; seeds (black beans), stems (pipe cleaners), leaves (artificial floral), and fruits (plastic or decorative apples work well, you can also use red, green and yellow pom poms). This activity can also work well as a playdough invitation to play. This time red, yellow and green playdough can serve as the fruit (you can even make it scented like apple or cinnamon!) and you can build an apple with seeds, stems and leaves.

Taste tests and comparisons are such a fun way to get kids into the kitchen. This is a great time for little ones to practice peeling and cutting with age appropriate adult support and supervision. It's also a great opportunity to see the inside of the apple and identify its different parts. Making homemade applesauce is another favorite apple activity that I am sure we will try again this year.

In the mood for a little science fun? Every year I've taught I have loved wowing and amazing my students with this "magical" science experiment. I always begin with my "Magic Words:" Abracadabra, abracadapple, help make a star appear inside my apple! Cut in half lengthwise, the traditional apple core view we are used to seeing appears (and this always makes for an amusing "mishap" upon the first attempt. BUT, cut in half width-wise, the star shaped section where apple seeds are stored in the fruit is revealed. This is a great way to introduce the wonder of science (versus "magic") to young minds. One student was so amazed by this activity, he brought me this half of his breakfast apple a month after we first tried it! The remaining apple halves make great stamps for printing if you're not planning to use them for eating or cooking.

And, of course, apple printing is always loads of fun, whether on fabric, paper or cardstock for Rosh Hashanah greetings.

Apple "marble" painting is another less traditional way of using apples for painting. You can use real apples or you can use decorative/plastic ones as well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

End of Summer: Easing and Honoring the Transition

The end of the summer season means a lot of things for a lot of people. Bit by bit (hopefully here soon!) the nights get crisper and the days grow just a little shorter. Water park and pool visits make way for county fairs and Autumn harvest picking. For many, it means back-to-school. For some, it means going back to work. For the first two years of my son's life, I was preparing to go back to teaching outside of the home and this year, I am gearing up for our own little home-school adventure together. I had initially planned to run our Mommy & Me Camp right into the onset of "school" starting, but it felt awkwardly seamless and overfilled. I needed some down time and I feel we all need some end of summer fun in its purest unplanned form: like just past bedtime runs in the park and spontaneous Sunday day trips and extra visits to favorite museums and play areas.  Unplanning is a gift I see the value in giving yourself over and over again, in appropriate doses, as needed. I'm a super planner--I LOVE to plan. Planning our curriculum of themes and learning topics for the school year ahead was a breeze for me. Implementing can sometimes be another story. It can be hard to let go of plans--even those written intentionally in pencil--without feeling a sense of guilt or failure. And that said, I see the importance of teaching my son all the letters of the alphabet--when Plan A doesn't flow, you go to B, and there are 24 more letters after that!
So these last weeks of summer, I washed off our schedule on the chalk wall, took the calendar off the hooks below it, returned the theme related books from my son's book shelf and basket and stocked them full of his all time favorites. We are planning a little and playing a lot. We move a little more slowly and linger a little longer because that is how I best remember the summers of my own youth. And since "school" is something my two year old really has yet to have any concept of and home-school is new to us both, I wanted him to have a tangible part in getting geared up and excited for that adventure soon to come.
"Back-to-school" is a phrase that can elicit a number of emotions: excitement, separation anxiety, wistfulness, nervousness, joy and many more. Whether I was the student, the teacher, the mom separating from her son, or any combination of those, I've tried to use play and creativity to honor those feelings and ease transitions. When I taught outside of the home, my son and I each had a key ring with laminated family photos on it to carry and peek at during times we missed one another. Many of my students have found something like this helpful as well, and it can discretely be kept in a lunch box, bag or cubby. Making or purchasing matching family bracelets can also be a fun way to carry something close to you during the day that brings feelings of familiarity and comfort. Helping to personalize and organize school materials can bring a feeling of home and personal ownership to a classroom. Although my transition this year is toward making my home into a classroom rather than the reverse, the projects we've worked on this week can easily be transferred the other way around as we gear up for all that the back-to-school season entails.

Best of luck, happy playing, and enjoy these final thirst quenching slow sips of summertime serenity!

We are using a paper chain countdown to the start of our home-school. Each day, we will pull away one chain as we count down the days of the next two weeks. Because Pete the Cat is a school time favorite and my feline BFF, he's there, too!
Crafting in front of my son is no longer a spectator sport for him. He now has creative ideas of his own! He needed a couple paper chain links for his "hand."

He also needed his own Pete the Cat to color and carry around like a paper doll. So yes, many of my projects take twice as long and are now twice as fun!
Our chalk wall is no longer home to our camp schedule, but now home to a countdown poem! We use countdowns in this house for holidays, family trips, birthdays and all kinds of exciting milestones. We've done a variety of methods and it's a fun way to honor feelings of excitement and difficulty waiting for something.
I have a collection of recycled tote bags my husband rescued from going to the dump where he works (no, I didn't quite say he went dumpster diving, but when you're married to a preschool teacher...). They make great gifts for family members, students and now great Mommy & Me school bags for us! I love apple season and with Rosh Hashanah and Autumn around the bend, it is a theme I always explore at the beginning of school years. It seemed a fitting medium to use for our school bags. Fabric painting with toddlers can be a little frightening--smock up!

And to avoid paint covered apples being mouthed and eaten, I offered a snack of sliced ones to be enjoyed before and after our project. (Please see only the bowl of sliced apples and not the adjacent bowl of sugary snack cereals).

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Beyond the Book: "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?"

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle is a book beloved by many. When it comes to those books your little one wants to read again and again (and again and again), I take an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mentality and spice things up with extension activities. We've revisited this book a lot over the last couple of years, beginning last summer during an animals theme in our Mommy & Me Camp. At one, wasn't quite at the point of sitting down for a story in the traditional sense. This book, however, has a great rhythm and simple text that even the youngest emergent readers can appreciate. To add a hands-on element, I collected black and white clip art prints of each animal in the story. My son was able to fingerpaint or paint inside a ziplock bag (for less mess and a different sensory experience) many of the animals and I colored in a few myself. I laminated the set and used it as we read and retold the story and he loved picking them up and playing with them.

This summer at age two, he can recognize the names and animal sounds as well as the colors of the animals. I added a circle of Velcro (the scratchy side) to the back of each animal in our set from last summer and we used it with our felt board for more story telling fun. My son had a great time selecting the animal as we read about it from the collection and putting it up on the felt board.

He had a great time retelling the story and recreating the scene even after the book was done!

 A little note about felt boards: we love them here, but store bought options can be a pricey investment. We have found some great boards and sets secondhand at a local thrift store. I've also made my own felt wall using a large sheet of felt tacked to a child-height space on our upstairs hallway. I use these smaller sturdy boards against an easel like this for vertical use and on the table/floor for horizontal use. You can easily make your own using sturdy cardboard to the size of your choice, felt and a stapler. I've also often used just a rectangle of felt itself--great for portable play and storytelling.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear is a great introduction to colors, animal names and my son has also added many animal sounds!

Our local library has been a great resource for extension ideas and activities. We recently checked out a set of books and materials to go with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, including a couple other books in the series, activity ideas and this block puzzle. Older kids could put each cube together appropriately to reveal a picture of each animal and my two year old had a great time stacking them and arranging them back in the rectangular tray. We also make use of our library to check out extra copies of a favorite book, what I call "yours and mine" copies--I like for my son to be able to have a board book copy to hold and look at as I read a larger paperback or hardback version. Audio versions are another great option, especially for traveling!

A few more ideas:
  • Go on a color scavenger hunt to observe and collect items in each color from the book
  • Make a book either with illustrations or photos in the style of Brown Bear, Brown Bear of members of your family or classroom
  • Children/family members can act out the story each using a puppet, prop or costume of the animal 
  • Laminated pictures are a great story add-on. They can be used as is, for felt boards as portrayed above, or as stick puppets. Made smaller, they can also be added to a sensory bin or used creatively for fine motor practice, as portrayed here:
Happy playing and reading alike!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tuesday Table Time: Homemade Playdough

Playdoughs are a sensory material that can be enjoyed from a very young age all the way through adulthood. Even very little ones can appreciate exploring taste safe and homemade options. There's a lot of great playdoughs, clays and similar sensory materials on the market available at craft and hobby stores and there are also a lot of wonderful recipes to make your own using ingredients you already have to some more obscure ones. My son could play with playdough every day and likely never tire of it. I do keep a stock of the store-bought stuff on hand but I also love the process of making my own and he's now at the age where he can really appreciate climbing up on his step-stool and helping out with the process in the kitchen.

The most common recipe I use for playdough is the classic stove-top recipe below:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 TBSP cream of tartar
  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
Optional additional ingredients: 
To add color:
food coloring, liquid watercolor or tempura paint
To add scent:
 extracts, essential oils, spices
To add texture:
glitter, beads, sequins

Mix first 3 ingredients in a medium pot. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Cook and continue to stir over medium heat about 3-5 minutes. The mixture will start to thicken and become lumpy. Continue to cook and stir until it forms a blob in the middle of the pot. Remove from heat. The dough will be quite hot so handle cautiously at first--this is not the part little ones should help with! Once it is cool enough to handle, knead on a nonstick surface (I use a vinyl cutting mat or placemat) and it is ready to play with and explore. Dough can be stored and saved in a ziplock back or airtight container for at least a few weeks.

I am a minimalist when we first start with playdough. I like to introduce it unscented with no color and no tools at first. Touching and kneading alone can provide a great deal of enjoyment and fascination for little ones. A "blank" dough is also a great way to explore mixing colors. You can add one primary color and then another using food colors or paint (note that food color can stain hands for quite a while when it is not yet mixed in, so you may want to use rubber gloves or mix in a ziplock bag). Adding tools like plastic knives or cookie cutters can add to the level of exploration as well. Again, I take a minimalist approach, providing only one or a few tools at a time on many occasions rather than a whole bin of options. I am also always intrigued by the ideas my son comes up with on his own of what to use as a "tool!" 

We use playdough at least once a week as a Table Time activity. It can easily be related to a theme by adding appropriate tools, toys and accessories:
Purple Peppermint Playdough with Construction Vehicles for our Transportation Theme

Hope you have fun digging in, getting your hands doughy and as always, happy playing!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mad Science Monday: Fizzy Planet Fun

I never get tired of exploding science experiments! And truth be told, I've never met a kid who does either. Baking soda and white vinegar are common household ingredients that are likely already in your pantry and ready for fun. That said, almost any day can become a Mad Science day, even on the fly. Added bonus: self cleaning science--if it gets on the carpet, no worries and you likely just lifted that old grape juice stain as well!

During a recent Space Theme, I came across this creative twist on the classic baking soda and vinegar chemical reaction on this wonderful blog. My son and I conducted our own Fizzy Planet Jupiter experiment:

We mixed about a cup of baking soda with about 1/4 cup of water and several drops of red and yellow food coloring to form our baking soda dough. The dough is quite crumbly and pleasantly cold to the touch, but given the right amount of water (you may need to add a bit more) can be molded into a ball.
Half the fun is just playing with the dough!

And the other half of the fun is using a condiment bottle to squeeze white vinegar and watch it 'splode again and again!