We usually use play dough that teachers make at home because of the heat required (older classes will use an electric skillet in the classroom, but remember that I'm working with 2s and 3s here). But sometimes it's nice to make some no-cook play dough with the kids. It doesn't last as long or feel as smooth as the kind you cook, but we recently made some that felt just like frosting. And who wouldn't want to play with frosting? Oddly enough, not one child tried to taste it, which is more than I can say for our usual play dough antics.
- rice flour (roughly 3 parts)
- salt (roughly 1 part)
- vegetable oil, a glub or two
- water, until it feels good
- liquid watercolor, until you think it's nice to look at
We started with the ingredients in a bowl with some spoons for mixing, but after awhile we just dumped the dough onto the table. The kids could ask for more flour or water and we'd give them some in a small container to add as they saw fit. This particular class is known for dumping, so large quantities of ingredients would have been gone within seconds.
This small project kept most of the class busy for about 20 minutes and around half of them busy for 45 minutes. After awhile even the calls for more water or rice flour died down. We eventually brought out some objects to use with the dough, but most of the time was spent simply manipulating it.
Many parents and teachers are surprised to learn that traditional and most commercial play doughs have wheat flour as the base. You can buy gluten-free dough, but it's expensive. Rice flour is more expensive than wheat flour, but it's cheaper than buying commercial gluten-free dough. Since the rice flour is very fine you get a different texture than with traditional dough. One teacher's husband at my school is a food distributor, so this year we have been able to get our rice flour at cost.
I highly recommend finding a source of alternative flours, particularly soy and rice, even if you don't have gluten-free students. We have a cooked dough recipe that uses rice flour and is just divine (a post for another day). I've never felt anything like it made with wheat. Different flours make different textures. Even whole wheat flour is a nice addition if allergies aren't a concern.