Finally, a good use for Jello: Homemade Jello Playdough

I finally finished Bl’s (22 mo) apron Wednesday, so I was hoping for an excuse to use it.  (I’ll try to get the post up with “directions” . Someday…) After Bl brought me the third empty playdough container to open in a vain attempt to find some to play with, I realized we had a perfect excuse. When Bl grabbed his apron & brought it over to me, I realized my time was at hand. :)

I remembered running across a playdough recipe that used Jello & thinking “Oh, great, that would give me something to finally do with that Jello I bought on sale other than just figure out different places to store it….”

Course, I couldn’t quite remember where I had seen the recipe, but that’s what Google is for…

After perusing a few versions, the directions & recipe I followed was one I found, written by a mom, at Instructables.com. (It had more salt than the other recipes I saw, which I figured what help keep it from growing gross things as quickly)

In case the link gets broken, here is the recipe:

  • 1 Cup white flour & extra for kneading (regular, all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 Cup salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Cream of Tartar
  • 2T vegetable oil (we used olive oil, ’cause that’s what we had)
  • 1 3 ounce package of Jello
  • 1 Cup warm water

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

We also needed:

  • bowl (to mix the ingredients in)
  • measuring cups & spoons
  • whisks or something else to stir the ingredients together
  • pan (& stove!- to cook the playdough)
  • heat safe thing to stir playdough as cooking ( I used a silicone spatula)
  • Silpat/parchment paper/wax paper (to put hot playdough on to cool, and to knead the playdough with additional flour once cooled)

Br (4 yrs) was easily rounded up to help too.  I had the boys help me measure the ingredients, dump them in to the bowl & then mix them “thoroughly.”

Br & Bl mixing the dry ingredients

Br & Bl mixing the dry ingredients. I ended up "putting away" the measuring stuff, as it was a little too tempting to scoop the stuff back out. Whisks were slightly safer...

 

 

 

I was a little nervous it was just going to be “flour” colored, until we added the warm water.

After adding the warm water (& oil) to the dry ingredients.  Bl's reaction: "Yuck!" Didn't know he knew that word! Notice the distrusting look he is giving "that green stuff"...

After adding the warm water (& oil) to the dry ingredients. Bl's reaction: "Yuck!" Didn't know he knew that word! Notice the distrusting look he is giving "that green stuff"...

 

 

 

 

 

There was a distinct (& pretty instantaneous) color change when we added the warm water, as well as the additional sensorial component of the scent from the Jello (lime-y, in our case).

 

 

The next part is a Mommy-job: pour the whole mess into a pan & cook over medium-low heat, stirring continuously.  As the directions said, it got “thicker, then lumpy, then clumpy, then just one big ball!”

pouring the "playdough" into the pan

pouring the "playdough" into the pan

After the playdough cooked

After the playdough cooked

After it cooled, kneading the playdough with extra flour ( to develop the elasticity)

After it cooled, kneading the playdough with extra flour ( to develop the elasticity)

Dump the cooked playdough on a heat-safe, non-stick material (we used a kids silicone rolling mat we have), but a silpat/silicone baking mat,  parchment paper, or wax paper were other recommendations.

It took a few minutes to cool enough to touch, and keep in mind it will be hotter inside, so be careful as you start kneading, especially if little hands are helping.

 

Then it is time to play!  Of course my camera battery died at this point,so the picture I have is from the second round of playing with the Jello playdough, which happened after playing outside, so Bl is wearing his “ear-warming hat”. :)

Trying out our very own home-made Jello playdough!

Trying out our very own home-made Jello playdough!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was my first time making playdough, and I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was!  It was an awesome experience for the boys.  They always love helping in the kitchen (& is always great opportunity for sensorial, practical, and math/measuring skills), but getting to witness how drastically the ingredients changed from dry to wet to cooked was also a great “science lite” experience (less “lite” if I had taken the time to emphasize how & why the changes occurred… maybe next time!).

And playdough is always great! (…okay, except when it gets in your carpet. Then it is fairly major suckage…) It took awhile to get Br (borderline sensory issues) to actually touch the playdough with his hands – he was intially just touching it with “tools”. It finally happened after I made a “snake” for Bl (which Bl thought was HILARIOUS), and Br decided he would show that he could make one too.  It’s nice to be reminded that 4 year old ego can sometimes serve some positive functions too!

It’s nice that I know exactly what was in this, and all the ingredients are totally edible (though I reminded the boys it wouldn’t be good to eat it…with all the salt, it would probably taste pretty gross too). The batch probably made a few of the full-size containers worth of playdough.  I found a recycled wide-mouth (shallow, with straight sides) glass jar with a lid in our cupboard to store ours in.  Some recipes recommended storing it in the refrigerator.  I’ll see how it does…

Yeah, use for Jello other than crowding cupboards, frightening unsuspecting potluck go-ers, or taking down naive college students!

Have you tried this? Any other uses for Jello I have been missing out on? I’d love to hear!

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Christmas decorating, practical life style

I’d been mulling this idea for a while, as I noticed Br (4 y/o) is pretty hopeless with buttons.  I finally got my tookus in gear and got it finished Monday.

"Christmas Tree", ready to decorate

"Christmas Tree", ready to decorate

I realized as I watched Br working on it later, it also works on one- to -one correspondence, color discrimination, and is a pretty great fine-motor activity too.  Pretty good for some recycled felt and a grab bag of random buttons (which, incidentally, was a great sorting activity)!

Materials:

  • felt in assorted colors, but for sure green and brown
  • buttons*
  • thread*
  • scissors
  • needle
  • extra pin or needle (to use as a “spacer” when sewing on your button)
  • (optional: fusible interfacing- if so, you’ll also need an iron handy)

*I used buttons & thread that matched the color of my felt “ornaments”. I’ve seen other buttoning jobs where they just used plain white buttons and just matched the thread color to the piece that goes on. You could probably also just use a single color thread and colored buttons.

I had a failed travel car mat I had started before our last trip, which had partially-fused fusible interfacing already on it, so this was a handy opportunity to give it a new chance at life.

I cut out a Christmas tree shape in the green felt (this was the stuff that already had fusible interfacing on the back).

Tree shape in green felt

Tree shape in green felt

I picked an assortment of colorful buttons (I also tried to mix sizes & styles of buttons) that coordinated with the colorful felt I had on hand.

Button & felt planning

Button & felt planning

Because I am anal, I carefully spaced & planned where each button would go.  Because I am the mother of a toddler, I had to do this a bunch of times, because someone wanted to “help” and kept moving and or/adding to my buttons.

Button designing

Button designing- do you see that chubby little hand sneaking in to wreak havoc?

I sewed each button on, in its carefully selected spot. :)

Button sewing

Button sewing- if you put a pin between the button and the thread while you are sewing, you guarantee yourself space for buttoning the fabric on

I cut out felt ornaments and cut a slit for it to fit on its respective button.  In the spirit of Christmas, I especially tried to use plenty of my “fancy” felt- with sparkles, etc.

Buttons sewn on, ormnaments attached

Buttons sewn on, ornaments attached

Br wandered in about this point, and was actually quite interested in the job.  Interested enough he didn’t want to wait for me to iron it to its backing.

Br trying out his Christmas decorating job

Br trying out his Christmas decorating job

Bl (21 months) was also quite interested, and kept trying to push Br off his seat.

Bl trying to get in on the decrating too

Bl trying to get in on the decorating too

Once Br was done, I popped the ornaments back off & ironed it to another piece of felt (remember, the fusible interfacing went on the back of the tree at the beginning).  You could skip fusing layers together, but it added some sturdiness (so the focus is on manipulating the buttons rather than just folding the felt) that especially helped where the buttons were close to the end of the “tree limbs”.

another justification for the mini iron purchase!

another justification for the mini iron purchase!

ironing the back side

ironing the back side

I think it turned out pretty cute!  Once I finally started it, it was actually fairly quick to make (in other words, even though I am so late getting this post done, you could probably make your own before Christmas!)

And hopefully this will be a fun tool to help my”big boy” get a little more independence with dressing.

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$1.76 fine motor activity, and “The News”

As I am sure you have all been waiting on tenterhooks (any one actually know what those are?), I shall finally reveal “the news” I referred to a while back, & reasonably justify my blog-neglect.

But for those of you who are all about business, I will first show my super cheap & easy fine motor activity.  (By the way, I am estimating on the $1.76.  Most of us probably have all but the first material on hand already.)

Materials:

  • parmesan cheese shaker ($1 at The Dollar Tree)
  • pipe cleaners (I had some in our craft stuff, but I think I they originally came from the dollar spot at Target)
  • pony beads (also already had, but I think the whole big box of them was a few dollars @ Target or a crafts store)
  • small bowl/container (for pony beads)
  • tray/plate (also had, but was $1 at the Dollar Tree)

Put a few pipe cleaners through the holes in the parmesan shaker’s lid ( I used 4, varied in height, but I don’t know if that actually matters).  Put some pony beads in a small bowl or container.  Put the whole thing on a tray. Ta-da! Job done!

I actually thought this fine-motor activity would be too challenging/frustrating for Bl (21 months), so I put it on the top of our “job shelf” with the theory then only Br (4 yrs) would reach for it.  Umm, yeah, I was apparently wrong.

The boys using the fine- motor activity

Note which child is concentrating on the task, and which is just throwing the beads on the tray...

Turns out the next morning both boys were playing on the couch, and noticed the tray on the top.  Bl industriously started picking up individual beads and carefully (and to my surprise, successfully!) threading them on to the pipe cleaners.  Br, on the other hand, was just dropping the beads on the tray and being generally squirrelly.  I actually had to give him a little reminder about being respectful of his little brother’s concentration!  Goes to show mom’s definitely not always right…. :)

It was still on the edge of Bl’s abilities,so I periodically assisted by slipping the beads down a little farther on the pipe cleaner so he would have room to slip more on.  It was a nice opportunity to reinforce some color words (“Oh, you’re putting on a yellow bead now? That looks nice on the blue pipe cleaner…”).  With an older child (i.e., if Br had shown any interest….), you could probably use it as an opportunity for some pattern making (make a pattern with the beads on one pipe cleaner and see if they can copy it).

Okay, now to “the news”/ blog-neglect justification: turns out there will be a third to our herd!  While making a Target run to get supplies to finish these on Halloween, I picked up a pregnancy test to “rule out” one theory why I hadn’t been feeling so good lately….

Turns out, it ruled it in.

So in deference to the misery that is the first trimester of pregnancy, I opted to sleep when ever the chance presented itself, and neglect blogging.  I actually didn’t mean to be so thorough in my neglect.  I thought I had published a post on gluten-free pie making on Thanksgiving, but my pregnancy-adled brain apparently didn’t quite finish the job.  I will try to remedy that one soon…

(As a side note, I’d heard they had done a study and determined that women lose 8% of their brain mass during pregnancy.  My geek brain has spent some time wondering if that loss is cumulative, or if the brain mass makes at least a partial recovery.  And is that 8% a flat volume, or a relative percentage? In other words, am I at worst case-scenario of 76% of my pre-kid brain mass, or subsisting at a moderately less un-nerving 85-90-or-so%?  These are the deep thoughts that have kept me from having time to blog. :)   )

Now that I am starting into the 2nd trimester, hopefully I will be better on top of things. Umm, for awhile.

Please bring on the advice for dealing with being outnumbered by your children, and recommendations for used minivans!!!

Montessori Monday
 

 

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