Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gluten Free Play-dough!

Wonderful alternatives to wheat/gluten containing play-dough for those with allergies.  

 Gluten & Corn Free Kool-aid Playdough 
·         1 cup rice flour
·         1/2 cup salt
·         2 tsp cream of tarter
·         1 package Kool-aid, unsweetened
·         1 Tb oil
·         1 cup boiling water
1.    In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, cream of tarter, Kool-aid, and oil until combined.
2.    Add boiling water and stir until blended. Allow to cool; knead to blend color if necessary.
3.    Store in airtight bag or container in the refrigerator.

Gluten-free Play Dough
Courtesy of the Celiac Sprue Association. 
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 8 minutes
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp cream of tarter
1 cup water
1 tsp cooking oil
Food coloring, if desired
Mix ingredients. Cook and stir on low heat for 3 minutes or until mixture forms a ball. Cool completely before storing in a sealable plastic bag.

Rubbery Playdough
2 cups baking soda
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup cornstarch

Mix with a fork until smooth. Boil over medium heat until thick. Spoon onto plate or wax paper. 

Homemade Play Dough
Adapted from the Kids Play Clay recipe on the side of the Clabber Girl Cornstarch canister 
1 cup salt
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
Food coloring (optional)
In a medium saucepan, mix salt and 1/3 cup water over medium heat, stirring occasionally (about 3-4 minutes). Mixture should appear like slushy, wet snow. Remove from heat.
Add cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water. The mixture will resemble mashed potatoes. Stir till thickens, cool, then knead on a board or countertop that has been lightly dusted wtih cornstarch. If desired, divide dough into smaller balls and add a few drops of food coloring.
Store unused play dough in the refrigerator in a sealed container with a damp sponge

Gluten Free Homemade Playdough Recipe

3/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup salt
3/4 cup rice flour
3 teaspoons cream of tarter
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cup water
food coloring (optional)
Add all ingredients to a saucepan (except food coloring). Cook over medium heat. Stir constantly until thickened in a ball. Remove from pan and let cool. Add food coloring and knead dough. Continue kneading until no longer sticky.
Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 months.

White Goop
Something fun to play with that's messy but easy to clean up!
1 part corn starch
2 parts water
Mix ingredients together until smooth.
Try to make a ball with the mixture. Note how it kind of keeps its shape as long as you are working with it, but as soon as you stop, it "melts" through your fingers.

You can find various other Playdough Explorations at:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Building Those Fine Motor Skills

Motor skills are important.
We need them to be able to do so many things.
This isn't just done by using a pencil and paper.  In fact, pencil and paper may be the last step in a long line of activities children need in order to build the muscles needed for writing.

The last thing we want to be doing with 3-5 year olds is to sit down with pencils and worksheets.  How boring, painful and developmentally inappropriate for many children. Think about writing a long letter with your non-dominant hand, this is similar to how it feels when children are not yet ready to write.

We start with gross motor skills, the big muscles.  Those have to be developed first before we can even think about the ability to write!  So we run, jump, hop, skip, climb, paint with big brushes, shovel buckets of sand, pull a wagon, ride a trike and do lots of other movement activities (to name a few). 

For fine motor skills, those small muscles,  we do lots and lots of open-ended creative art, math and manipulative activities, puzzles, play-dough and clay, sorting, dressing, eating, and so-on...

Building Fine Motor Skills:

In order to have the ability to write, we first need strong gross motor skills.  Children need more outdoor time, building muscle strength!

Even big kids need to climb!

Once they have had enough outdoor time, they can settle into an art exploration, using 'real' materials.  Nothing better for fine motor development than letting children explore and encourage their creativity to flow (and building cognitive skills too)...

Some open-ended question you can ask during the art exploration:

Tell me about your picture.

Look at how you have made those colours mix together.  How did you do that?

How does your picture make you feel?

And remember, it's the process that is important-not the product!

Creative Art Activities Promote Development:

                                                                    Happy Exploring!

It's Playtime at hands on : as we grow

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Outdoor Environments

Now that we have set up the indoor environment with the basics to get started, it is time to think about the outdoor environment.  We know that both environments will evolve as the children interact, and as ideas and interests emerge.  Currently the environment looks quite empty without the children's artwork gracing the walls and their creations taking up space on the shelves, but we know this is an environment-in-the-making and will blossom over time.  The classroom is lacking the narrations of children's learning and discoveries, which will be the important task of the teachers via pedagogical documentations.  We look forward to adding colour, texture and interest items to the classroom as the children's needs emerge over the coming school year and beyond.

Our outdoor space looks empty, with all the ride-on-toys and other items stored away until our school opens in September.  We have grand plans for this space, such as sand, water, art explorations, nature items and many more bits- and-pieces for creative engaging exploration. 

We are inspired to bring many learning opportunities outside, in addition to those experiences we will provide inside.  We are inspired by other schools who have amazing outdoor spaces and have high expectations for what we can provide in our outdoor learning environment.  Outdoor time is vital for our health and well being, and we want to provide the children with opportunities to explore, engage, discover, imagine and experiment...and of course to run, jump, hop, build, climb....building muscles and strong bodies.

Insha'allah, we will turn this:

Into something amazing

Image from

Creating Playscapes for Children
From 'Let The Children Play'

Natural Environments Photographs
From 'Department of Education and Early Childhood Development'

A Water Wall
From 'Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning'

A page full of wonderful links to Natural Play Spaces and more..
From 'Let The Children Play'

If you had a 'blank slate', what would you want to include in an outdoor learning environment?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stocking Up On Ideas

I wonder where the preschooler's emerging interests will take us when our new preschool will open in September?  The possibilities for engaging hands-on experiences are endless.  The learning opportunities are never-ending....

Maybe it will look like some of these experiences that we have had the joy of observing children engaged in, or maybe it will look like something completely different...

The children decided to decorate rocks for the garden

Exploring the life cycle of vegetables

Nothing like a good puppet show with child-made puppets

Exploring shadows and illusions

Exploring gardening

Can we see the difference between salt, sugar and baking soda?

The children were interested in volcanoes, so they built their own
Exploring volcanic eruptions

same material, all different open-ended art creations

Look what I discovered!

Shape it!

Rainbows are beautiful

There is nothing like making your own bread for snack
Making Bread

Science Experiments

Marble Maze

Being the teacher

Beach exploration

The colours of autumn

Building a fort

Working together to build a castle

Exploring solids and liquids.  Which is it?

Ahh, it feels so gooey!

Making a fresh batch of play-dough

Two hands are better than one

Working Together

Exploring creatures

Making discoveries

The joy of autumn leaves!