Salt Dough Alphabet Learning

My life over the last year has not been ‘my life’. It’s been a crazy attempt at keeping my head above the water as both a mother and an employee.  My job is winding up this week, and while I’m panicked to the hilt about how on earth I’m going to stay afloat, there’s also a part of me that feels a huge amount of energy returning to my day to day. I feel excited about spending time in home education again, and not like my little girls are just another thing on my to do list every day. We’ll see how the next months go, but I’m excited about getting back to being a mother first, even if the government is trying to push mothers back into work – even those that don’t want it. But that’s a post for another day.

Today I decided that it was time to start at the beginning again. Ameli is reading beautifully and mostly confidently, when she can be bothered to. Aviya is slowly starting to recognise letters, and I think it’s time we start focusing on our play-learning themes again. At least for Aviya it’s a formal start to alphabet learning.

I thought a fun introduction for us all would be something crafty, so I went with the Little Cooks Collection alphabet letters. I gave them all to Ameli to sort out for me, “so that we can see if we have them all”. I was really pleased that she got it right as far as I expected her to – that is, she still confuses “j” and “g”, but we’ll work on it.

Salt Dough Alphabet Learning

Salt Dough Recipe

The salt dough I used is probably the best recipe I’ve used to date. I’ve often found that making salt dough is fine, till you try to dry it, then it tries to rise and cracks and breaks. This one didn’t do that. For this recipe I used 270g flour, 160g fine salt and about 170g water (2/3 cup). Mix it all together, so that it’s properly combined, then knead the dough. I have a Thermomix so I did a quick three minutes in that, but a 10 minute knead by hand should produce a similar result. You want it pliable, and not crumbly. It should also not stick to surfaces.

Roll the dough out, and cut out your shapes. We transferred ours to a pizza stone (two, actually) and put them in the oven for 2 hours at 135C. This may vary from oven to oven, so keep an eye on it. It needs to be dry, but not browned.
Salt Dough Alphabet Learning

Leave the shapes to cool completely, then paint and decorate as you wish. I let the girls run with it, but they  had to make sure the sides were painted too, which is pretty good fine motor skill training. We used a water-based paint, which I wasn’t initially sure would work, but it did work beautifully.

Salt Dough Alphabet LearningOnce properly dried, we will focus on a letter a week and do alphabet learning around it, using some for word sounds (like ‘ch’ and ‘th’ and so on too. It should keep us busy for a while!

For other literacy themed ideas, click here

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Learning Colours – Using Uncooked Pasta

In our quest to learn colours but not have to spend much money on the process, I’ve discovered a few tutorials on how to colour pasta in such a way that it is bright and bold and fun looking. The problem is, the majority of these methods include the use of rubbing alcohol, or surgical spirits, in the dye process. I find this less than ideal when you’re working with something for a two year old, quite frankly, so had been searching for an alternative.

I found one in the form of vinegar. Using simple white vinegar you can colour pasta with a little food colouring. It’s non-toxic, and toddlers aren’t overly keen on eating it after the first attempt anyway! (Unless they particularly like the taste of vinegar, perhaps!)

The process for making it is extremely simple, and I’m’ not going to walk you through it – you can see the original tutorial here – but will say this: You put pasta, a spoon of vinegar and food colouring in a bag, mix it up, leave it to air dry and play,  play, play. Easy peasy.

Here, however is what I do want to share with you. Our coloured pasta:

Doesn’t it look lovely?

And the games you can play are pretty endless. As a colour learning exercise, it was important that we discussed the colours and used a lot of repetition – children learn best by doing.  So we:

1) String the pasta

Making pasta necklaces is as old as childhood – or pasta – itself.  I decided that we’d stretch our fun out by saving that particular delight for another time, and on our first (and subsequent) pasta play efforts, we just strung the colours in different sequences, sometimes with me recommending colours, other times with Ameli just going for it and telling me which colours she was using.

2) Sort the pasta

Another fun game and amazingly engaging is sorting pasta into the appropriate colours. We just played with three colours here, but it was still a good sorting activity and again we were able to talk about and name the different colours.

3) Free play

The power of free play is amazing. When I leave Ameli to unguided play, she comes up with all sorts of things – like stringing up the pasta and then dragging it around the living room behind her calling it a car. Amazing.

What other games could we play with our coloured pasta?