I am terrible at making play dough. For years I have experimented with all kinds of recipes, cold, cooked and microwaved but all of them turn out in a sticky mess within 24 hours. That is until a pre school teacher shared this simple formula with me. Mix 2 cups of corn starch/ corn flour with 1 cup of hair conditioner. Finally a recipe that works!
The texture is slightly less firm and more crumbly than standard play dough but it has a lovely silky texture and led to some interesting creations.
What had originally been an icy art project, unexpectedly turned into a fascinating science investigation.
A few weeks ago we filled up my baking tins with water that we coloured with powder paint and dropped all manner of things into them. Shells, berries, leaves, sequins, buttons and even a stone were placed inside to make ornaments for our tree. The weather unfortunately instantly became warmer, so we had to wait some time before they were ready to hang. Even then, only the top layer of ice had frozen and within an hour of hanging them on the tree they had melted. We also discovered that if you colour water with powder paint it separates once it begins to freeze, so most of the ornaments were not the lovely colour we had hoped for.
The girls have been peeking outside every morning to check if there is any ice. This week they were rewarded with below freezing temperatures. The ice ornaments were finally ready! We hung them on the tree. The sun was shining and the tree stands in the sun until mid afternoon. I wasn’t sure how long they would stay this time as ‘plop’ one fell down from the tree.
Let’s put it by the door. That’s in the shade – it might make a nice present for Father Christmas.
As we went inside I asked the girls to watch the ornaments from the window.
They are melting.
How do you know?
They’re wet and they’re dripping down.
What do you think will happen as they melt?
I don’t think it will fall off the string because the string is attached. It will just melt and the floor will be wet.
When we went out later there were more interesting observations
Look this one has holes in it. It might break not melt.
Can I touch one?
Within an hour or so the tree was in the shade and the temperature was beginning to drop. We noticed that the drips were starting to turn into little icicles.
The girls thought this was really cool and the next day even more so when we saw large icicles had formed.
They rushed outside to feel them, touching them gently so that they didn’t break off.
A Winter Pirate Treasure Hunt
The weather was so cold that during the late afternoon I sneaked into the garden with a jug of water and some pirate coins. I put the coins in various containers and poured a little water on the top.
In the morning I invited the girls on a pirate treasure hunt. First they needed to make a map. I had some coffee stained and singed paper that in true Blue Peter fashion I had prepared earlier.
Next they needed their pirate toolkit:
A pot of pirate sea salt
Out they went and quickly found coins. The hammers were their first choice. They weren’t very successful so then they tried the salt. They found that if they used the spoons and the salt they could gradually get down to the coin and hook it out.
This could take ages, if we got a jug of hot water it might be quicker.
The ice is still there you just can’t see it.
Drop it in the water
We were talking about the sea salt later in the day.
How do the pirates get salt from the sea?
Good question. The salt is in the water so how do you think they could get it out?
I don’t know.
Shall we try it?
What do we need to do to make the salt disappear into the water?
We need to dissolve it
How? Do you remember how we made jelly dissolve or the sugar water we make for the hummingbirds?
We put hot water on it. Let’s be scientists and do an experiment.
The girls helped to stir the mixture until all the salt had dissolved. We poured the mixture into a pan and put it on the stove.
What happens to water when it gets cold?
It turns to ice
What about when it gets hot?
I don’t know.
Watch. What can you see.
If I put this spoon over the steam what can you see on the spoon.
It’s wet – water.
Yes the water is turning to steam. Now look what’s happening in the pan. What do you think the white stuff is?
I don’t know. Is it steam.
No. The water has gone now so what is left?
We had another idea for an experiment. If we put the salt back in water and then left it outside would it freeze?
We haven’t played with ‘goop’ for a while. Usually we play with ‘goop’ in the garden so that the girls can make as much mess as they like and explore it with their whole body. Today there was an indoor ‘goop’ session at Romp so we decided to visit to see what was in store.
For those who don’t know what ‘goop’ is, it is a mixture of cornflour/cornstarch and water and makes an interesting consistency that is half solid and half liquid.
At the session today the ‘goop’ was arranged in trays with food colouring, paint brushes and sticks for mixing and scraping. The girls were in their element – messy play, scientific exploration and colour mixing all rolled into one.
I gave the girls permission to explore it with their hands, yes they had coloured hands for a while but the comments and questions were far richer once they got their hands dirty.
I love the questions that arose from the play. I’ll definitely be putting ‘goop’ in the water tray soon to see if we can work out any answers.
My eldest daughter has been an avid potion maker all her life. We are always finding concoctions in her bathroom and when she was young she would leave them on the windowsill of her bedroom or on the side of the bath and if you knocked them off whilst having a relaxing bath the cold would give you the shock of your life. She is now a huge Harry Potter fan, having read all of the series 4 times and her potions are taking on new meaning. Her younger sister is following in her footsteps. Now that the weather is nicer I set up a little potion station for them in the garden – they love it.
It is a great sensory play activity and science experiment, they got their hands in, testing and smelling the potions and used all kinds of things from the garden. Best of all I love how the imaginary play scenarios evolved. I suggested to my 9-year-old that she might like to make a book of potion recipes.
‘Yes’ she exclaimed excitedly, ‘ But we’ll need about 70 pages, the McClary recipe book’