It hasn’t been that many years since there was no TV, video games, or tablets to entertain young children. Homes were a place where a variety of activities were available for children to play, discover, create, and use their imaginations. Too, the outdoor play took up a large part or a child’s day, except when it rained, though playing in warm rain and muddy puddles were fun. Many of the activities popular in years gone by are still a great source of enjoyment and learning for young children and a welcome change from electronics. The following ideas are easy to provide, cost little, and if set up correctly will not cause much mess.
Playdough: Probably one of the most popular items for young children is playdough, the homemade kind, which is perfectly safe even for toddlers as it is made with cooking ingredients should the child take a bite. The following recipe is easy to make and can be stored in a covered container for a week or two.
Mix in a medium saucepan 1 cup flour
½ cup salt
2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Add to above a mixture of 1cup water
1 tablespoon salad oil
(Plain white play dough is fun, especially if the children plan on decorating items made after the items dry. Food coloring should be added to the water before adding the oil to better dissolve the color}
Cook the mixture over medium heat stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken quickly and soon form a ball of playdough. Remove from the stove and pop into a container. Let is cool a few minutes and then knead the dough until it is soft and pliable. It is fun to make several colors so children can create whatever their imagination suggests, such as a pizza, fish, animal, snake, or birthday cake.
Playdough can be placed in a covered container to be used again or the creations can be dried. Placing the creations on a cookie sheet in an oven at its lowest setting will speed the drying process. Paint using washable craft paint. Sparkles can be put on with clear, washable glue. If the children are making ornaments, make the hole for hanging before the ornament is dried. Cookie cutters, small lids, and any variety of small containers can be used to spur a child’s imagination. Save candles from birthday cakes to be reused as play candles for a playdough birthday cake.
Have the children use the playdough on plastic placemats, preferably at a child-size table. Place an old shower curtain or sheet under the table to catch playdough crumbs which can then be shaken off when playing is done. If playdough should get on the carpet, it will dry and can easily be scraped up using a dull, table knife.
You will be amazed at how much young children enjoy using homemade playdough. Interestingly, adults often find themselves playing with it too, and an enjoyable family event can take place.
While playdough is probably a young child’s favorite, there are other exciting ideas for developing young minds apart from technology. In Part 2 and 3, more ideas will be presented for both indoor and outdoor play.