Friday, November 28, 2008

a play clay day

A couple of months ago I became interested in hosting toddler art classes at our neighbourhood community room. Really, my interest in this has a lot to do with myself having some creative play time, and, oh yeah, my kid and her friends are welcome to tag along, too!

When I was a student working towards my BA in design at Emily Carr, I would often volunteer to teach children's art camps. I found this incredibly fulfilling and I enjoyed making art with the kids immensely, so I looked forward to making with my own little ones some day. However, I have found that creating with older children is a very different experience than creating with toddlers (for one, toddlers have very little attention span) and so I wasn't quite sure really where to begin.

With a little bit of research I came across the wonderful blog The Artful Parent and Jean's article of how to start a children's art group, all of which I found to be a wonderful resource for making art with little ones. I also ordered the two books that she recommended on the subject: Young at Art by Susan Striker, and First Art by MaryAnn F. Kohl.

What I learned is really quite simple: that creating art with toddlers is not about any final product, but about the process - It is with the process of experimentation and play that little ones learn about their world. With toddlers, it is important that art time be open-ended and process orientated, easy-going and just fun! 

And, I love this quote from Young at Art: 

"With the exception of baby's first steps, there is no more significant milestone in your child's development that the first mark he or she makes on paper. These squiggles herald the start of a lifetime of writing and drawing... do much more than just hand a child a crayon; your enthusiasm helps encourage future exploration."

allison and the playclay by you.

While me hosting an official toddler art time is still held up in some odd community association red tape. And, to be honest I am not sure right now if I am ready to commit to a regular class schedule and the project planning this would take. But I am free to book the room anytime and host some making time at my whim. So the other day I decided to make up loads of soft homemade playclay and invite the neighbourhood little ones to come and play with Adelaide and I. 

Rather than purchasing expensive (yet cheap) commercial playdoh toys, I simply went through my household cabinets and selected out a bucketful of tools: mallets, rollers, cookie cutters, spatulas, scoops, mashers, hair combs, empty thread spools, all sorts of treasures. For "adult" tools are really what little ones want to play with, anyways!

eden_playclay by you.

I was quite pleased with the result: about half a dozen toddlers, moms and dads, and me hanging out with a big old bunch of dough. Some kids got really into it - some didn't really - and that's fine by me! 

But I have found that giving each child only two or three tools to experiment with at a time is much more effective than the whole lot at once - for little children get overwhelmed and overstimulated easily. And to play alongside of them simultaneously, but not directly interfering with their play process. I have found that if I am interested and give some of my energy into playing with the dough, then most times they will, too.

We still have a large container of the playclay here at home, and almost every day Adelaide wants me to lug it out for us to play together. I pull up her little chair to the kitchen table and we go at it - making our sweet sweet nothings. Yet she loves this creating time and she loves that she can do whatever she wants with the dough! And one batch of this playclay has lasted us for months. 

play clay day by you.

PlayClay

Squeeze, roll, cut, press, model, and play with this super soft homemade playclay that is a delight to touch. There are many commercial playdoughs and homemade recipes that are too hard and stiff for the smallest hands to manipulate, but this one is great!

Materials:

2 cups water

1 cup salt

food colouring*

4 tsp. cream of tartar

4 tbsp. oil

2 cups flour*


Method:

- Combine water, salt, cream of tartar and food colouring (.5 tsp for pastel colour and 1.5 tbsp for vivid colour) in a large saucepan. 

- Cook on low heat and stir. As the mixture heats up, stir in the oil and then the flour slowly.

- Keep Stirring the mixture until it starts looking dry and pulling away from the pan. Remove from heat and pinch a piece between two fingers. If it is not sticky, it is done. Otherwise, continue stirring over low heat.

- Place the dough on counter and knead until smooth. Children will enjoy kneading the warm dough when it cools enough for them, too!

- When finished playing, store playclay in an airtight container or plastic bag to re-use again and again. Do not refrigerate.


* For children who cannot tolerate gluten or food colouring, you may subsitute rice flour for flour and use natural beet (red), spinach (green) or carrot (orange) juice for colour.

48 comments:

Jennifer said...

Thanks for sharing this story and recipe. Cream of tartar is something I can never find in stores here, so I buy a bunch of it when I am in the U.S., specifically to use for stuff like this. :-) Can't wait to try your recipe and make a bunch of fun colors.

Lori said...

good luck with your class :^)

liliashpole said...

love your blog and this idea. the most beautiful things that come out of my kitchen are created by my daughter's hands. it is amazing to see a toddler's creativity at work.
also, i hate to be this person, but i don't think flour is in the ingredient list.

sharilyn said...

Jennifer: To this day I am not really sure what cream of tartar actually is. Making this playclay is the only time in my life that I've actually used it in a recipe! Let me know if you run short, I'll be happy to send you some!

Lori: thankyou!

liliashpole: OOPS!!!! thank you for pointing that out. Duh! See what happens when breastfeeding and blogging simultaneiously? : ) It is 2 cups of flour. : )

Zee said...

I miss the toddler era in my home. They still love play clay though. Hmmm, I will ask in the grocerie store if they have cream of tartar. I don't what this is...
thanks for the recipe!

liliashpole said...

hi sharilyn,
i spent more time revising recipes at my old job than i would like to admit. so now it is a bad habit of mine to go around blogs and over analyze recipes, whatever the recipe is for.

if you guys were still wondering, cream of tartar is just a powder acid. it is the acidic half of baking powder, sometimes it is referred to as meringue powder. this recipe probably calls for it because it has an antimicrobial effect.
if you can't find tartar, i would just use vinegar since it isn't going to be eaten. or at least it isn't intended to be eaten.

dänika said...

Sharilyn,

I love your blog, and I am so excited to see this recipe! I loved playing with homemade and commercial PlayDoh when I was a child, but I discovered that I am gluten-intolerant a few years ago. I hadn't found any gluten-free equivalent - I don't have children yet; just wanted some for myself! :) - and I am so, so delighted to see that you have a gluten-free option listed! Thank you so much for thinking of those who can't have the "regular" flour.

I think it's wonderful that you had a PlayClay afternoon for your beautiful little daughter and her friends. :)

sylvesterandmama said...

thank you for the recipe - must try making playclay for my son ;-)

Nikki said...

I just found this on etsy.

http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=17873433

It makes me pretty sad :c

Charlotte Arphenee said...

hello there,

i've been a silent reader to ur blog for the past 3 months. been very interested in handmade craft and i finally found ur blog. it a mmust for me to check ur updates every day because it is really a fresh and interesting life that u and ur little ones. im in love with ur works and of course ur lovely adelaide.
the funny things is, i never remember what is ur blogs address. i just add it as my fav, never bother to at least write it down. and last week, my computer at the ofice got infected with virus, and ve to reformated, i lost all my fav blogs address, including u. so today, i been searching for u all over the internet without even knowing ur name, or your designer name. i only remember, adelaide. and u r in etsy. finally i remember ur lovelydesign. and here i am, posting a comment to ur blog. how is that?
one thing for sure, u make my day with all the things that u n adelaide do everyday. keep blogging, and fell free to visit my blog. it is in malays, but u can see how my baby Wawa really looks like adelaide.

bye for now.

jay, malaysia

jtp said...

Sharilyn,

I love your blog, your Lovely Design shop, and your beautiful photos of family, work and home. You rock!

A question about the play clay: How did you manage to make such a brilliant red clay? I've used beets and food colouring to my clay (similar to your recipe), but can't manage anything more than an intense pink. Any suggestions?

Thanks,

June (mama to Noah)

Jenn said...

oh, this is so inpsirational! I really wish Clara had a little group of friends to have an art group with! Well, we will definitely be making the clay from the recipe at home to play with together. Thanks so much for sharing!

Alissa Nicolau said...

Hi Sharilyn,

I am wondering if you have found the wonderful kids craft sites called

Kids Craft Weekly and

The Crafty Crow

Love them and hope you might also.

Happy Holidays,

Alissa

Ann said...

I worked at a day care one summer and the kids in my room were 18-24 months. I loved doing art projects with them. I loved rolling out the clay and watching to see how many were just following me without me saying anything. They didn't get frustrated, they just had fun.

Your community is lucky to have you!

tigermilk said...

can you ever be too old to play with clay? i hope not! ;p

Sara, Plainfield, IL said...

very cool. i think i will get some little air tight containers and use this idea for party favors for an upcoming b-day party.

Kitten Muffin said...

We just tried your recipe for our pretend bakery and it worked out great! Thank you!

kgbubble said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kgbubble said...

Hi!

I'm new to this, so forgive me. I tried to find a way to just message you, but haven't figured that out yet, so it makes the most sense to leave my comment for you on this post. I hope you get a notification of a new comment on an old post?

I LOVE your blog! I actually came to it through a photo on flickr, which I 'faved'! It's so comforting to read the perspective of someone in a similar situation, going through the same beautiful and challenging aspects of mothering, and trying to stamp out a creative space for her child, and find the time to get some of her own.

We made your playclay! At any rate, I blogged about it in my blog, and wanted to credit you so I provided a link to this post. It now occurs to me that I likely should have gotten your permission first. If you aren't comfortable with this for any reason, I will remove it. As of now, I'm pretty sure my blog is read only by my family and friends who are far away from us for the time being, to let them into our lives a bit more. We do a lot of cooking, crafting, etc. We've done several of your ideas, and loved them. Thank you! You have a beautiful family and are an inspiring mother and artist/creator! Keep shining! Peace

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JJ said...

I used your recipe for an art class for some of my son's friends and we love it! The only thing I changed was to substitute tempera paint for food coloring. All the mommies asked for your website so they could make some of their own!

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