Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Holidays & Gifts: Kids' Stuff

Posted by Julie
Towards Sustainability

It's coming up to school holidays time, and I know I'm trying to prepare for the inevitable "Mum, I'm bored!" pleas. We have a number of homemade mixes I like to make up in advance, and my kids can't get enough of these; they're cheap to make using regular household ingredients, they weren't shipped halfway across the world in brightly-coloured plastic containers, and they don't contain any dodgy chemicals or colourings.

As it is also the gift-giving season, these also make fabulous, cheap presents for the young ones in your life or their friends.


1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup salt
3 teaspoons cream of tartar (found in the baking aisle of the supermarket)
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
A few drops of natural food colouring, if desired.

* Combine the flour, salt and cream of tartar in a saucepan. Combine the oil and water (and food colouring if you are using it), and mix into the dry ingredients in the saucepan.
* Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and dough-like, and it is coming away from the sides of the pan.
* Remove from the saucepan and cool slightly, then knead briefly until smooth. Allow to cool completely before using. Store in an airtight container or plastic bag. It doesn't need to be stored in the refrigerator, but it will last a little longer in hot weather if you do.

Bubble Mix

1/4 cup dishwashing detergent
3/4 cup water
5 drops glycerine

* Measure the ingredients into a container with a lid and stir gently to combine. The older this mixture is, the longer the bubbles last when it is used, so it is a good idea to make it at least two weeks before you want to use it or gift it.
* Seal leftover mix tightly. You can make various different sized and shaped bubble wands using thin wire (such as florist wire) and a pair of pliers, and we find that using shallow flower pot saucers work well for containing the bubble mix for dipping when we are using it.

Salt Dough

* 2 parts plain flour
* 1 part salt
* water as required
* 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl, and add the vegetable oil. Mix in a small amount of water, and keep adding water and mixing until the mixture is smooth and no longer crumbly. Use the dough as you would for playdough to shape into whatever the child desires. When they are finished, place into an oven at 170'C/ 340'F, and dry until the shapes are nice and hard.

Paint them with any water-based paint. Varnishing them with craft glue or modge podge when dried will help protect them if you intend to keep them for some time.

To make this up as a gift, combine the flour and salt in an airtight container such as a pretty jar. Include the instructions on a piece of card attached to the jar by a ribbon, or apply a pretty label.

Water Colour Paints

* A quantity of corn starch / cornflour (say, half a cup, depending on how much paint you need)
* An equal volume of cold water
* Food colouring for the required colour/s

Mix equal parts by volume, of the cornflour and water until the cornflour is completely suspended in the water. Slowly add the food colouring to the mixture drop by drop, while mixing until you have achieved the desired colour. Start painting!

This mixture is also great dried into a powdered form for later use or as gifts. Pour it out onto a shallow plastic tray and place it in a spot where it can dry slowly in the air. When it is completely dry, crush the paint to a fine powder and store in an airtight container until required. To use the paint, add water until you have the desired consistency.

The salt dough and water colour paint recipes came from the Grandpa Pencil website, which also has some great activities for kids during the holidays.

Have fun!