When investigating into our unit of inquiry ‘Who We Are ‘, we explored about ourselves through the Central Idea, “We use our bodies to learn about the world.” The children were invited to participate in a variety of learning experiences that encouraged them to wonder, explore and build understandings related to the different parts of the body, the five senses and how we can learn through using our senses.
The exploration of play dough by the children in EY1RS was an experience that the children came back to re-visit many times throughout the inquiry. In order to support and develop the interest and wonderment about this material, changes to the play dough were considered as a provocation to further exploration. Engaging the sense of smell, the play dough began to yield different aromas of essences, scents, herbs and spices. Our sense of sight was stimulated through the addition of natural colours and dyes, with sensory exploration also being awakened through the addition of olive oil and jelly crystals. This slowly changing and transforming material, simple in its initial form, repeatedly engaged the children’s senses through play.
Making play dough engaged all of our senses
Sense of Sight
The children used their sense of sight to gather the equipment and and measure out the ingredients. It was also required to observe changes in the mixture as the recipe was followed.
Sense of Hearing
It was important to listen to the directions to be able to follow the recipe. The children used their sense of hearing to listen to the questions and ideas of both their peers and teachers as they worked together to make and play with the play dough.
Sense of Smell
The children used their sense of smell to test and compare the various flavours or scents that we added to the play dough, these included citrus fruit juices, jelly crystals, olive oil, herbs and spices.
When working with the cinnamon flavoured play dough the children were inspired to cook a variety of “cakes”, “cookies” and other edible delights. These treats often required baking in the Home Corner oven.
Tuur explained that we added the spice “to make mine smell yummy.” He encouraged other children to use their sense of smell to test smell of the dough. While shaping her baking items Izumi remarked, “its cinnamon. I love cinnamon.” She and Tuur agreed that the cinnamon play dough smelt “yummy.” As did Maximilian who shared, “Yeah, mine smell(s) yummy too.”
Sense of Taste
While we of course did not suggest that the children taste the play dough, some children did like to test the taste of the ingredients we used, from the flour, salt, lemon juice and the spices of nutmeg and cinnamon.
Sense of Touch
Play dough invites you to use your hands to feel and shape the dough into endless ideas. Through the use of our sense of touch we discovered that while different ingredients could change the colour and scent of the dough, often they also changed the texture. Adding lots of salt makes the dough feel grainy and by adding cornflour it produces a softer and smoother consistency.
We experimented by adding too much water to one dough mixture. This made the texture ooey-gooey and slimy. Owen excitedly suggested that we add even “more water!” The children played with the mix using their hands. Izumi commented, “It feels dry (before adding the water.) It feels funny. It feels too sticky. Look at my hands! It’s so slimy.” Many of the second language learners (with little or no English) made facial expressions that showed that the texture was sticky and felt interesting to them. Maximilian exclaimed, “Look at my hands!” Melvin commented, “It feels like flour. (Add) more water! Look at my hands!” Nikita added, “The flour feels very soft.” After adding lots of water, Nikita thought that it felt “goopy!”
We needed to add hot water from the kettle to make a play dough mixture. Aaron explained how he could use his senses to observe the steam rising from the hot water. We tested his theory that we could tell the water was hot by holding our hand over the jug. Aaron shared his understanding that if we touched the hot water it would hurt us. Aaron made connections between how we can use our senses to recognise danger to keep ourselves safe.
By engaging with these provocations, exploring teacher-guided questions and participating in small or whole class discussions, the children were able to exchange ideas and build new understandings related to how “We use our bodies to learn about the world.”
This is our favourite Play Dough Recipe
3 Cups Plain Flour
3 Cups Hot Water
2 TBSP Salt
2 TBSP Cream of Tartar
2 TBSP Cooking Oil
1 Packet of Jelly Crystals or a few drops of food colouring
Mix all of the dry ingredients and oil together in a bowl and stir.
Add jelly crystals or food colour to the hot water.
Add the liquid to bowl and stir.
Let cool. If the mixture is sticky add extra flour.
When you are finished playing, store in an airtight container. It should keep for a few weeks.