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Squish, Squeeze, and Squirt

Three recipes for playful, pliable summer learning fun
 

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Creativity
Writing
Fine Motor Skills

Children love to play hard and get messy. Once at preschool, Jennifer ran to wash her hands after playing in a sticky mixture of glue and shaving cream. "Ms. Lisa! Ms. Lisa!" she hollered. "This is the best day of my life!"

As adults, it can be difficult to see the purpose of mess and the goal of goo. In actuality, play is the foundation for future school success. Realize that when your child squeezes playdough she's developing the muscles in her hands and fingers that need to be strong before she can hold a pencil. When you work with her to measure and mix water and cornstarch (oobleck), your child will explore math and science, not to mention the small motor skills necessary for pouring and stirring. 

Squishing shaving cream on a table is a wonderful way for children to practice their scribbles. (Truth be told, shaving cream also does a mighty fine job of cleaning the table.) Beware of wearing your grown-up hat! It's not about squirting the shaving cream on the kitchen table and announcing, "Today we are practicing our scribbles." Relax, and let your child explore. Remember, it's impossible to separate the doing from the learning.

Children will scribble, draw, make lines or piles, or use craft sticks to move it around. Here are our favorite recipes for some more gooey, hands-on fun!

Recipes
Playdough
Homemade sand
Flubber

Playdough

What you need:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 1½ cups salt
  • 6 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 6 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • food coloring or liquid water colors

What to do:

  1. In a pot, mix flour, salt, and cream of tartar.
  2. Color the water with food coloring or liquid water colors and stir it in along with the cooking oil.
  3. Over low heat, stir until the dough forms a big ball.
  4. Dump the playdough onto a heat resistant countertop or cutting board. Allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before kneading.

How to play:

  1. Children will enjoy playing with the playdough while it's still warm. It feels good! Set out cookie cutters, craft sticks, and other kitchen utensils for further exploration. 
  2. Add vanilla or peppermint extract before cooking. Smell is our strongest link to memory — and what fun ones you'll be creating! Also try substituting cake and muffin mixes for some of the flour. Use about half of the cake or muffin mix and 2 cups of flour.

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Homemade Sand

What you need:

  • 4 cups dried, used coffee grounds
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1⁄2 cup salt

What to do:

  1. Dry the grounds in the sun or in your oven on low heat. Make sure the grounds are extremely dry — otherwise they'll mold.
  2. Stir all ingredients together and there you go!

How to play:

Provide funnels, scoops, and wooden spoons for hours of mixing, stirring, and pouring fun. Empty bowls or small containers are great for dumping and filling.

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Flubber

What you need:

  • 1½ cups glue
  • 4 tablespoons Borax  (laundry detergent aisle)
  • 4 cups water

What to do:

  1. Mix 2 cups of water and the glue in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together 2 cups water and the Borax.
  3. After it's dissolved, pour the Borax mixture a little at a time into the glue mixture and stir. You might not need all of the Borax mixture.

How to play:

  1. Squish it, poke it, or try sticking a bit of it at the end of a straw and blowing a bubble.
  2. Watch it ooze through your fingers.
  3. Hang a berry basket in your doorway and place some flubber inside. Watch it ssttrreeeettcch through the holes in the basket.

Note: Vinegar will take flubber out of clothes. Mayonnaise will take it out of hair.

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