What is soft and squishy, smells great, and provides hours of fun? What provides neuro-feedback to little brains and develops fine motor skills? And what strengthens little hands, promotes creativity, and stretches imagination? Three cheers for humble, homemade play dough!
Our favorite play dough recipe can be made from items likely sitting in your pantry right now. Making this wonder goo can be a shared activity for you and your preschooler or a science activity for an older child to make by themselves.
I am a tea lover. Tea is my go-to beverage. I like it iced. And I like it hot. I like it with bubbles (tapioca pearls). And I don’t like chamomile tea. I have my reasons. So, if you have a couple of tea bags in your pantry that you are not going to drink, this recipe is perfect for using them up.
I got the idea for this recipe from my new favorite preschool curriculum, a thick volume packed with colorful pictures and chock full of ideas for promoting educational development in preschoolers the way they learn best – by playing! It is called A Year of Playing Skillfully. Yes, it is pricey, but I think it is worth it. They offer a free month download of their curriculum and I encourage you to try it. I was hooked.
Try both their herbal tea recipe and mine! The book has some great ideas on how to use the play dough differently on successive days, so the activities stay fresh and new.
Our favorite use of this play dough was to form a mountain and a bear out of it, decorate the mountain with things from the backyard to make it look like a forest, and then sing “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” , with our little bear acting out the lyrics. Incorporating music and poetry wherever you can fit it in, naturally helps develop language skills.
I encourage you to use whatever herbs you grow in your garden (drying or dehydrating them first), or even try herbs from your kitchen drawer. We used rose petals from an all natural potpourri and lavender from all natural drawer sachets. Do not use generic, mass produced potpourris because they rely on skin and eye irritating oils for scent.
Use whatever teas you have. Most people do not have the loose tea collection that I have laying around. No worries, just open up several tea bags! Edible flower petals are optional. Lay them out on a tray in a sunny spot a few days before, to dry, or pop them in the dehydrator for a few hours, or even on the lowest setting of your oven for an hour or two. What’s Cooking America has a fairly comprehensive list of what is safe in the flower world. If in doubt, leave it out. This play dough is terrific with fewer add-ins, too.
2 to 3 Tablespoons loose tea (black, chai, green, herbal: the stronger the
scent and the more colorful the tea, the more sensory the experience will be)
2 cups of water
2 cups white flour
1/2 cup salt
4 Tablespoons cream of tartar
1 Tablespoon oil (I use coconut oil)
6 Tablespoons dried herbs of you choice (mint, very finely minced lemongrass, or oregano are nice choices)
3 Tablespoons dried flower petals (edible varieties only, just in case you have a play dough nibbler: rose, hibiscus, lavender, nasturtiums, and impatiens are safe choices you may find in your yard)
Bring the two cups of water, with the tea, just to a boil. Turn off heat and let steep for several minutes. Meanwhile measure out dry ingredients and oil. Next, add the dry ingredients and oil to the pan, turning the heat back on and stirring constantly until significantly thickened, about 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and spoon out onto a surface dusted with flour. Knead the dough until it feels the consistency of play dough. Finally, when cooled enough for your child to touch, let them knead in herbs first and flower petals last. Enjoy!
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