Every morning after chore time and before I tackle school work with the older children I spend some time with our youngest children. We call this preschool and our little ones enjoy the focused time with mom and getting to choose a fun activity each day. Sometimes they have a whole week of activities selected ahead of time.
One of their favorite projects is sculpting or modeling. We use self hardening clay, Sculpey clay, Play-Doh or salt dough. (We’ve even made peanut butter play dough which can lead to a stomach ache for any child who hasn’t learned self-discipline.) Salt dough is my preference for the littles. It’s not as messy as Play-Doh, easier for little hands to mold than Sculpey and they are able to paint their creations after baking. We usually paint the day after we sculpt.
If the some of the 5-8 crowd are available they like to guide the little ones through the process of making the dough.
Salt Dough Recipe
3 cups flour
1 cup water
1 cup salt
2 tsp oil
Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix. Squeeze and pat it into a ball.
Now the fun begins. I give each child a mat and lump of dough. The mat defines that child’s space, keeps their dough separate from that of the other children and also keeps the mess off of the table (this is especially helpful with types of clay that leave a residue). When we’re done the mats get washed in the sink and there isn’t much to wipe off of the table.
The children have free reign on what they wish to shape. The younger ones enjoy making balls and snakes and Colby (4) can make one mean teddy bear. If the mid-range kids (5-8 years) are available we’ll get some more elaborate designs and the younger kids love copying the creativity of the older ones.
When everyone is finished (or ‘preschool’ time is over) we bake the finished pieces at 350 for 20 minutes. We wrap any unused salt dough in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge until the next time the kids want to use it.
The next day the kids don their paint shirts, get out the acrylic paint and paint their baked salt dough creations. Painting is serious business in our home and requires utmost concentration.
Painting does get a little messy but mess is half the fun when it comes to preschoolers so we use washable paint, laugh a lot (especially when a whole paint jar drops upside down on the floor) and try to remember to have a camera nearby.
Psst, these preschool years pass way too quickly, be sure to take some time away from your “more important” responsibilities and enjoy it!