Although we have given some great suggestion for outdoor play we understand that this time of year children spend a lot of time indoors and that you are looking for an activity to keep them entertained. Here is the recipe for play dough as well as some suggestions on how to make it not only fun but an opportunity for learning.
Basic ingredient ratios:
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar
If you want your play dough to have a scent you can use cinnamon, jello packets, kool aid or other fun scented powdered materials.
Mix and heat
Mix all of the ingredients together, and stir over low heat. The dough will begin to thicken until it resembles mashed potatoes. (important to take your time and do this over low heat. If not you will burn and ruin your pan)
When the dough pulls away from the sides and clumps in the center, remove the pan from heat and allow the dough to cool enough to handle.
IMPORTANT NOTE: if your play dough is still sticky, you simply need to cook it longer!
Keep stirring and cooking until the dough is dry and feels like play dough.
Knead & color
Turn the dough out onto a clean counter or silicone mat, and knead vigorously until it becomes silky-smooth.
Make a divot in the center of the ball, and drop some food coloring in. Fold the dough over, working the food color through the body of the play dough, trying to keep the raw dye away from your hands and the counter. You could use gloves or plastic wrap at this stage to keep your hands clean- only the concentrated dye will color your skin, so as soon as it's worked in bare hands are fine.
Work the dye through, adding more as necessary to achieve your chosen color.
If you use unsweetened drink mix for color, test on a small ball first- it won't go as far as the "real" food coloring.
Play and store
Play with your play dough It's entirely edible, a bit salty, but safe to eat.
When you're done store it in an air-tight container. If it begins to dry out, you can knead a bit of water in again to soften the dough back to use ability. Once it's dried past a certain point, however, you'll just have to start over; thankfully it's not terribly difficult.
Play dough is a great indoor activity. Here are some ideas to extend play and make it more successful:
Have a designated area on the table for the children to use play dough. A plastic place mat is an easy inexpensive way to provide boundaries when using play dough at home. Make a rule that play dough can only be used at the table and on a place mat. This will eliminate the problem of having it stuck to a rug or finding it on the couch.
Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes. You can use alphabet cookie cutters and begin learning and sequencing the letters in your child’s first name. If they are beyond this move to the last or you could get fancy and do first, middle and last.
Use fun kitchen utensils such as garlic press, pizza cutter, spatula or other things that you can use to cut and press. While supervising your child let them use scissors to cut play dough into pieces. These are all great activities that will help strengthen hand muscles and develop fine motor skills.
The possibilities are endless when using play dough. The children love creating with the dough and it is a fun activity on a cold day when you can’t get outside.