My kids are 9, 5 1/2, and 3. In my experience, summer break is not just a challenging period in which I have to juggle household management with occupying three kids. Summer break for me involves trying to get anything at all done while trying desperately to find age-appropriate, interesting activities for three wildly different children. You know, before they destroy the house.
So today we thought we’d share with you a couple of projects to help you tame the wild beasts that are your children. Oh, I’m not talking all day, here – but each of these projects could easily buy you an hour of (okay, mostly) bicker-free time:
Homemade Play Dough and Homemade Crayons!
Project 1: Homemade play dough. Oh, I can hear you groaning from here! What’s wrong with store-bought play dough, you say? (Actually, it gets hard and dry – and therefore unusable – ridiculously fast. And homemade doesn’t!) And won’t this take forever?? (Nah, about ten minutes.) Okay then, I bet that it has some sort of crazy, specialty ingredients in it, right?? (Nope.)
Sold yet? This is one of my favorite activities: easy enough for a 3-year-old to help with, but interesting enough (especially with the right tools!) for a 9-year-old to get some good enjoyment, too. Okay, there is one absolute necessity: food coloring. If you don’t have any, pick some up before you start this project. Kids love to personalize their dough by kneading in their favorite colors!
Here’s the step-by-step:
1. In a medium saucepan, dump the following:
- 2 c. flour
- 2 c. warm water
- 1 c. salt
- 2 T. vegetable oil
- 1 T. cream of tartar
2. Mix the ingredients together and place the pan over low heat. Continue to stir occasionally.
3. The mixture will begin to thicken and clump up after about 5 minutes. When it pulls away from the side of the pan and starts to look like mashed potatoes, turn off the heat.
4. Dump a large scoop of warm play dough onto a flexible cutting board or plastic-coated place mat or tray. Drop by drop, add in your preferred color, kneading until the color is evenly distributed.
5. Play! Be sure to have plenty of rollers, cutters (plastic knives, plastic scissors, cookie cutters), imprinters, and forms for your children to manipulate the dough with. I gave my kids chopsticks to “write” on their dough, and they loved it – especially the older two.
Okay, have you exhausted project 1? On to…
Project 2: Melting your billions of crayon shards into usable crayon discs!
We’ve all been there: broken crayons filling your boxes so that they no longer fit, and worse, the children claiming that they can’t use a broken crayon to color. Make those broken crayons misfits no more by recycling them into NEW crayons! The kids can help with every step of this project.
1. Preheat the oven to 275F. Collect all of your broken or way-too-short crayons that you want to recycle.
2. Peel all of the paper wrappers off of the crayons.
3. Divvy the broken crayons into silicone muffin pans (or metal muffin pans lined with aluminum foil). If you have pans with fun shapes, this is a great time to use them! Note: If you do not want to devote these pans to crafting, line them extremely well with foil. I personally do not like baking with mine and use them just for crafts.
You may need to break the crayons more in order to fill the cups. You want them packed in as well as you can, though not overflowing. This is where the children can be as creative as they want – some might want to have only matching colors together, whereas others may want to mix up a new color creation by putting all different shades in one cup.
4. Place pans on a baking sheet. This makes them much easier to carry, especially if you are using the wobbly silicone pans. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until crayons are melted.
5. Once out, the melted colors could be mixed and swirled more with a toothpick if desired, or simply leave as is to cool. After about 30-45 minutes, remove new crayons from the pans (this is when using the silicone pans makes the work extremely easy). Place on a cooling rack to cool completely. Enjoy!