Rather than throw away my preschool class' batch of Chocolate Play Dough which has lost most of its scent and is starting to crumble, my students and I chose to reuse and transform it. In fact, I have discovered that Chocolate Dough easily becomes Dirt Dough with the addition of a few choice props. This pliable homemade medium still promotes strong fine motor skills and open-ended play opportunities, but now instead of a chocolate shop, the children are inspired to create many dirt related situations.
So far, my son, my four and five year old students, and I have come up with these Dirt Dough Scenarios:
- Garden: add small plastic vegetables, wooden popsicle sticks or tongue depressors, small shovels, gardening gloves, laminated seed packets, and seed catalogs
- Flower Shop: add plastic flowers, small pots, flower shaped cookie cutters or rollers, ticket books, a telephone, and a cash register
- Construction Site: add construction vehicles and rocks
- Farm: after reading the Mrs. Wishy Washy books by Joy Cowley, add plastic farm animals, copies of the board book Mrs. Wishy Washy, and a small tub "Oh, lovely mud!"
Exploring Dirt Play Dough with my son and my students has reminded me that one of the reasons I went into teaching is because I love to learn. I remember in college a professor telling us that good teachers created life-long learners in their students. What he didn't share was that teachers also become life-long learners as they are continually inspired by their students and fellow teachers. I never cease to be amazed how my own children and my students can take something like a lowly clump of brown dough and transform it into something extremely educational and highly entertaining. Reusing at its best!
Dirt Play Dough (a.k.a. Chocolate Play Dough) Recipe
2 1/2 cups flour (plus more for kneading)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
3 cups water
3 tablespoons oil
- Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and cream of tartar in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan.
- Add water and oil.
- Stir constantly over medium heat. The mixture will be soupy for several minutes and then suddenly it will stick together and can be stirred into a ball.
- When mixture thickens and forms a rough ball, remove from the heat and continue stirring.
- Turn the hot ball of dough onto a floured surface, and begin kneading as it cools. Add extra flour if mixture is too sticky. Continue kneading until flour is incorporated and dough is no longer sticky.
- Enjoy dirt dough with plastic flowers, flower pots, small construction vehicles, plastic famr animals, rollers, cutters, and other tools.
- Store at room temperature in a large zip-lock bag or other air tight container.
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