As the cold weather draws in we are all going to be looking for a few more indoor activities for the little ‘uns. The best things provide a range of activities rolled into one to keep the kids engaged for a reasonable amount of time. This is an old one, but a great one and both Munchkin and I love it – making playdough and having a playdough party.
Activity one: playdough making
Even young children can help with the mixing and kneading as both are done away from the heat.
1 cup water (it doesn’t matter what size cup, just use the same one throughout)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup salt (This preserves it and makes it unpleasant for little ‘uns to munch on!)
1 teaspoon food colouring (You may need more if you want very vibrant colours)
A few drops almond essence (This is not essential, but mimics the scent of the bough playdough)
1 cup flour (Make sure it’s plain)
Put all the ingredients, other than the four, into a large saucepan and warm gently.
Remove from the heat and add the flour.
Stir in the flour, then remove from the pan and knead until smooth
Keep in an airtight container (we often use old take away containers)
Activity two: playdough playing
Once you have made the playdough, you can keep it for months (no exaggeration, if you’ve used cream of tartar) in an airtight container, but nothing beats that first game with the new, still slightly warm dough. I actually find it quite relaxing, rolling, shaping and squishing the dough!
Munchkin and I usually have a playdough party the first time round. We get cake decorations, fairy cake cases and candles and make numerous cakes. We usually then get out all the stuffed toys, a picnic blanket and the tea set and have a playdough party.
Making the dough is brilliant for their cooking skills (older children could help weigh and measure too) and the child’s enquiring mind will love watching the individual ingredients combine and create a new substance – chemistry in action! Playing with playdough encourages imaginary play and also helps with fine motor skills.
All in all, then, making playdough is a great activity for a cold, rainy day.
The other day, I tried something new with my 2 and a half year old. We went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. I didn’t take her there strapped into a buggy and hoping she would sleep. I didn’t drag her around, kicking and screaming. I didn’t even have to carry her – she had great fun!
We headed to Exhibition Row on the tube at about 9.30; just late enough to have missed the bulk of the rush hour traffic. We did have to stand for the first two stops and then ask to get to a seat which became spare in front of a mid-20s lady who looked half asleep and mortified that she hadn’t asked us first, but the two stops of standing up and holding on were fun for the munchkin who kept saying, “the train is wibbly-wobbly!”. I decided against the buggy – more hassle than it’s worth up and down stairs in the tube. I knew this might mean a shoulder ride every now and again, but figured it isn’t far from South Kensington Station to the V&A…
We have been on a number of occasions to see the Dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, or the Basement play area at the Science museum, but we hadn’t yet braved a real museum, at least not with the intention that the munchkin took part. We arrived about 5 minutes before the doors opened and Munchkin loved looking at the letters spinning round above the tunnel entrance. I had judged it right and running like a maniac down the tunnel was fun, so far we had managed the train ride and the arrival with no carrying necessary. Now to brave the quiet, peaceful and ‘don’t touch’ surroundings of a real museum!
I had looked online before we went and decided to head for the Discover the Medieval World section and have a go at brass rubbing. I did have to reiterate a couple of times that museums are for walking in and that you mustn’t touch exhibits, but this was repaid with questions such as, “what is that around the lady’s head?” (Madonna and Child painting) “Where’s that statue’s head gone?” (Roman statues section) and “Is that another funny lion?” (Medieval carvings). So she was definitely interested despite the hands-off nature of the journey to the discovery room.
We found the room and stayed there for about an hour. (As with other Museums in London, it’s free, so even making a short trip worthwhile.) We did brass rubbing, drew a picture of a mythical beast, did jigsaws of coats of arms, and dressed up. It was great fun, and by far the best ‘proper’ museum experience we’ve had.
On the way out, a member of staff stopped us and asked if we’d heard of the backpacks that they do. I said I’d seen them online, but thought that they’d be a bit old for a 2 year old. I was told that they’d just launched a toddler one with soft-block jigsaws and an animal sound trail. Looks like we’ll be heading back to the V and A another day!