One family's quest to learn together
It’s bedtime for the kiddies and all is quiet. We’re settling down at the end of the first day of the Easter break and all is quiet, and peaceful at about 8.30pm. An hour ago I was watching Simon and the kids playing with Playdough and contemplating how this day could have turned out very different. Today, Playdough saved the day.
This morning Simon was like a bear with a sore head. It’s the first day of his ten days off work and he should have been in a great mood, but he wasn’t. He’s tired. He’s frustrated that we’re still here in Adelaide and not travelling yet. And most of all, his job is driving him crazy. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, but he’s reached that point where even though the end is in sight, those last few weeks at work are excruciating. He might have been able to switch off and enjoy these ten days, but in that time, he knows the phone will still ring, things will still go wrong, and he’s still got a tender to finish writing in the next few days, which he’s disappointed not to have finished already.
He was on the couch this morning reading a book, trying to forget about work I imagine, and Oscar was playing a wii game in the same room. Excited to have daddy at home, Oscar was relaying to his father a running commentary of the game and I could tell daddy was having a hard time feigning interest and keeping his grumpy mood at bay. Simon is a great dad, he doesn’t shout at the kids often, or even hover excessively over them, fussing over them like I tend to do at times. He’s very kind, fair and patient, but he is human, and this morning he was showing signs of cracking the cool calm and collected exterior.
I have been promising the kids that I’d make them some Playdough to play with, (the real deal, homemade stuff like I used to make for my kindergarten classes) and today it seemed the perfect activity to distract Oscar so that his dad could get a little down time. Oscar and I mixed up the Playdough together, then emptied the cookie cutters, rolling pin and other utensils from the drawers. He played quietly at the table for an hour before his sister came along and joined him. The dough was divided in two, (no arguments! 🙂 ) and another hour of play rolled on.
My kiddies are not preschoolers, Oscar is 7 and Lucy is nearly 12. I think Playdough has the reputation as being a manipulative for the under fives and it is often forgotten as a useful learning medium for older children. But watching my two playing today, I was reminded of all the skills that can be utilized with a ball of squishy Playdough and a few kitchen utensils. To start with, they were rolling, cutting, pushing, forcing, and modelling. Beyond that, they were also talking, using language to describe the Playdough itself, and their creations. They were co-operating and sharing, dividing the Playdough into portions, and teaching each other a new technique that they’d mastered with a tool. Playing with Playdough is also therapeutic, like squeezing a stress ball, Playdough is soothing and has a calming effect, especially when it is freshly made and still warm.
The kiddies packed up the Playdough in the afternoon and went off to other various activities, and after a chilled out morning and an afternoon nap, daddy was even in slightly better spirits. After dinner the Playdough came out again, and this time, even Simon couldn’t help but start squishing, rolling and modelling with them. The bright red, soft, smooth, malleable dough was working it’s magic once again as the three of them laughed and shared together. Watching the three of them play together, I thought to myself, imagine how amicable adults would be if they were playing with Playdough during high powered meetings and negotiations? Imagine if our elected politicians were playing with Playdough during Parliamentary sessions, gently squeezing, creating and laughing together as they decided on the fate of our nation? But alas, my imagination is running away with me… if you could do with a bit of Playdough therapy in your house though, here is the recipe, I pass it on with some love. It may just save the day for you too!
2 cups of Plain Flour
4 tbs of Cream of Tarter powder
1 cup of salt
2 cups of boiling water
2 tbs of cooking oil
Place the flour, salt and Cream of Tarter in a large bowl, using a whisk, mix them together well. In a measuring jug, add the food colouring (as much or as little as you prefer for colour intensity) and oil to the boiling water. With a wooden spoon, make a well in the centre of the flour mix and pour in half of the hot water mix, working to combine it with the wooden spoon, then add the other half. Turn out the dough on to a floured surface and knead it together until it is smooth, (you may need to knead in a little more flour if your dough is still sticky). After a few minutes of kneading, the dough should have all come together into a smooth, malleable dough that does not stick to the surface or your hands.