Nowadays, I am the one to suggest playdough as an activity. Why the change of heart? It boils down to two things:
1. I wisely contrived a plan to spread a vinyl mat/tablecloth on our ceramic tile hall. So, even if playdough bits stray from the mat (which --who are we kidding-- they will), they fall on the tiles instead of getting embedded into the carpet. Embarrassingly, this hard floor=easy clean-up concept took me years to grasp.
2. While strolling through the blogosphere, I found a recipe for playdough that is perfect. I have tried no less than half a dozen different playdough recipes in the past. Sure, the ingredients are all similar to some degree, but the results have been anything but similar. We've had: too wet, too dry, too stinky, too much, too short-lived (dried out in record time), etc. etc.
The following aspects make my new favorite playdough recipe a winner:
*it makes just enough. I'm not stuck with cups and cups worth of playdough that required the emptying of every salt shaker in the house and left me with no flour to make muffins later on.
*the recipe is so simple and straightforward that my daughter can make it all by herself (okay, she needs me to give it a good stir to smooth the lumps, but the rest is all her).
*it keeps in the refrigerator for quite some time as long as it's in a sealed bag.
Best Playdough Recipe
(found here, which is a delightful blog in many ways, so check out the non-playdough related posts too!):
4 Tbsp white flour (on humid days, I find that I have to increase the amount by another Tbsp or so)
2 Tbsp salt
A splash of vegetable oil (the original recipe calls for a dropper-full, as it is intended as a Montessori activity. I didn't have a dropper on hand, so I guesstimated here)
2 Tbsp water (if you want to color your playdough, add food coloring of choice to the water before mixing it into the rest of the ingredients)
Combine in a bowl and stir. Then knead to really incorporate the color (if used). We kept our first batch in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. We found that subsequent batches kept fresher longer if stored in one of those plastic snack-sized baggies (which, on the whole, I try to avoid using, but one little baggie can be used indefinitely for playdough storage).
We made bracelets and watches. Now we make a new batch of playdough on a regular basis. Throw in some cookie cutters, a garlic press (to make hair/grass/worms/spaghetti), spoons, forks, butter knives, plastic cars, or any toy that makes great tracks and is easily washed and have some fun. Just make sure you have the fun on a non-carpeted surface (ahem). Although, I'm probably the only Mom out there who needs a reminder like that! ;)