Early childhood educators call it “tactile exploration.” But you don’t need a fancy term to know that toddlers love getting their hands into something squishy and colourful. These easy recipes cost just pennies a batch, so you can enjoy them as often as your child likes.
1 cup (250 mL) boiling water
½ cup (125 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) flour
1 tbsp (15 mL) oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) cream of tartar
a few drops food colouring OR ½ tsp (2.5 mL) unsweetened Kool-Aid drink-mix powder
Boil the water, stir in the salt and bring back to the boil. Remove from heat and add flour, oil, cream of tartar and colouring. When it’s cool enough to handle, knead until smooth. (Warm playdough is one of the nicest materials there is — let your child experience it, too!)
Five fingers (and a HAND) paint
For quick fingerpaint, dissolve ¼ cup (60 mL) cornstarch in 2 cups (500 mL) cold water. Cook and stir over medium heat (use a wire whisk to keep it from getting lumpy) until it becomes clear and thick. Add a little food colouring or liquid tempera paint. Cool and apply to shiny paper, a high-chair tray or a tabletop.
Solid state slime
Here’s a material that can rescue a bad day. It’s fast to mix up, soothing yet fascinating to handle — and even on hair or carpet, it brushes away when it dries.
To stir up fun for one, measure ½ cup (125 mL) cornstarch into a big bowl and gradually add water — you’ll probably need slightly over ¼ cup (60 mL), but stop adding when the water is incorporated. It will be hard to stir (use your hand), like a solid — but it looks like a liquid and will drip off your toddler’s fingers delightfully. Make a double batch if your toddler really likes to get his hands in deep.