How To: Have your own Messy Playdate at Home

By Amanda Crowe, Assistant Educator
Follow-up to Creative Playdate: Messy Playdate, December 5, 2013.

Kids love to feed their curiosity by making a mess and using their senses in the creative process. Research for the education of the young child shows that more mess-making leads to higher forms of learning.

Homemade Peppermint Playdough:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
1 tsp cream of tartar (for smooth texture)
1 cup water
1 tbsp oil food coloring (cake decorators paste or liquid makes great colors)
1 tbsp peppermint extract (easily found at craft stores in candy-making section or grocery store in baking section)
Ziploc bag or airtight container

  1. Mix together flour, salt and cream of tartar.
  2. Add water and food coloring, whisk until smooth.
  3. Cook over medium heat until playdough is nearly set (not sticking to the sides of the pan).
  4. Add peppermint extract and stir until blended. Remove.
  5. Knead when cool, add glitter and continue to knead.
  6. Store in Ziploc bag or airtight container for up to three weeks.

Extension activities: Fill an ice cube tray with small trinkets (buttons, coins, beads) and hide the trinkets in the playdough for your child to discover.  Older children may enjoy using tweezers to “dissect” the dough.  This is a great way to develop fine-motor skills.
Dinosaur Stamping:
If your child likes the idea of painting, but the concept of using brushes or fingers is not so appealing, then incorporate the objects he/she loves into a lesson not soon forgotten.  Try using an assortment of dinosaurs, animal figures and even Little People to trample through the paint and make “footprints” on paper.  Use cars and trucks to roll through red and right into yellow to engage your child in a mini color-mixing lesson. Have a warm soapy dishpan full of water or shaving cream nearby – and watch your children’s eyes light up as they give their painted toys a color “bath.”
Coffee filter painting:
A great way to use up old food coloring on a rainy day is to experiment with drip painting and color saturation on a porous coffee filter.  Be prepared to use a large stack of filters, as your kids will be entranced by the way the colors appear to “crawl” and “stretch” across the filter, creating beautiful tie-dye masterpieces when dry.
Rolling prints:
Old spouting, PVC tubing and roof edging (with safe edges for children) cut in half length-wise make wonderful ramps for rolling balls, cars and marbles.  Line your ramp with paper, dip your ball in paint – and, voila, you’ve made a rolling print!
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