Saturday, August 8, 2020

Play Dough Pill Bugs

The "Camp Tinkergarten" lesson plans have been an absolute Godsend for me this summer, as Zac is craving "doing school" and asks for it constantly where I have been swamped with consulting and curriculum writing as we head into this very unusual school year. I don't have a lot of time to lesson plan for him... but the folks at Tinkergarten have really stepped up to help!

They have different handouts for different age groups (infants, toddlers, preschoolers 3-5 years, school age 5 years and older) and they're also available in Spanish. I am linking to the Preschool/English ones here.

If you sign up for their emails you'll get the links as they come out each week, and you'll be able to download other versions if you wish:

The Great Camp Out/In is a week from today: Saturday, August 15th.

We have finished up through Tiny Friends but I set aside this week to NOT work and to play with him. So we will hopefully have a blast this week with all these new ideas!

Zac really enjoyed Tiny Friends and we had our animals in their habitat for two weeks before we let them go (a glass bowl with a piece of mesh covering the top, grass and dirt and sticks and etc inside, and a spray bottle for daily misting). We began by reading one of my absolute favorite science books for young kids: I'm a Pill Bug by Yukihisa Tokuda.

Then when we went outside to find one (this book suggests making a habitat at the end and collecting some pill bugs for observation, so it was perfect) it was way too dry and they had all retreated under the earth. But we did find a lot of snails! So he began with a snail habitat and we read The Snail's Spell by Joanne Ryder (also excellent).

We kept misting the snails and feeding them leaves and checking each day for pill bugs and finally it rained and we had more luck. Then when Zac went to make his Tiny Friends with play dough, he had been so used to the stillness of a sleeping snail, he set his pill bug on the placemat and went to look for more and it walked away! This was a big surprise for Zac... and we found the pill bug contentedly sitting on a leaf so all was well in the end.

My favorite no-cook play dough recipe is chocolate but I've been looking for another one that we can make in different scents (and which doesn't use up all of my cacao powder), and found this recipe from The Imagination Tree. It uses the same basic method but you can add scent or color as you wish.

April 25, 2012 by Anna Ranson

You need:

2 cups plain AP flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil
1 to 1 1/2 cups boiling water
food coloring (optional)
few drops glycerin (optional)


Mix the flour, salt, cream of tartar, and oil in a large mixing bowl

Add food coloring TO the boiling water then pour into the dry ingredients

Stir continuously until it becomes a sticky, combined dough

Add the glycerine (optional)

Allow the mixture to cool down then take it out of the bowl and knead it vigorously on a piece of wax paper. Knead for a couple of minutes until all of the stickiness has gone. This is the most important part of the process, so keep at it until it’s the perfect consistency! If it remains a little sticky then add a touch more flour until just right.

We added orange blossom water and orange food coloring to the hot water and got a lovely scent and color. Zac was very excited. If I'd had any dried orange peel in the kitchen cupboard I would have added that as well! It's fun to customize and experiment... but I also like the chocolate one because I don't have to think about it. I just know it will work out perfectly every time!

I already get cream of tartar and kosher salt in bulk for mordanting yarn as part of my natural dyeing projects this summer. Thrilled to see that I could just use those ingredients in this recipe as well!

2 lb cream of tartar

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