Matilda’s Chocolate Playdough – Fantastic Playdough Recipe!

I’ve made many a batch of playdough in my time, but I’ve never been excited enough by a recipe to write it down, and I’ve never actually kept a batch in the fridge for more than a day or two, until I recently discovered a very simple recipe that is silky soft and fantastic.

It’s also the first time I’ve actually ‘cooked’  a playdough, but it won’t be the last. I’ve adapted this recipe from Imagination Tree, largely because I didn’t have enough salt or any cream of tartar, but I’m also hoping the exposure to Epsom salts will make sure my little people don’t run out of the magnesium and other benefits that come from Epsom salts.

Since we’re working on Matilda right now, I decided to go for a chocolate playdough so that we could make the chocolates Miss Honey remembers her father having after dinner – the same ones Miss Trunchbull now keeps to herself.

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Matilda’s Chocolate Playdough – Fantastic Playdough Recipe!
Author: Luschka – adapted from Imagination Tree
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups plain flour (all purpose)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup Epsom salts (you can use normal salt)
  • Up to 1.5 cups boiling water – added a little at a time
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • teaspoon glycerine for that silky shine
Instructions
  1. On a steady heat, add the flour, salt, and oil in a large mixing bowl
  2. Add the cocoa
  3. Add the boiling water then into the dry ingredients
  4. Stir continuously until it becomes a sticky, combined dough
  5. Add the glycerine
  6. Remove from heat
  7. Allow it to cool down then take it out of the bowl and knead it vigorously for a couple of minutes until all of the stickiness has gone.
  8. If it remains a little sticky then add a more flour a little at a time until it’s right.
Miss Honey's Playdough Chocolates

You can hardly tell which picture is from the movie, and which is playdough, according to the 3 year old 😉

For more Matilda themed activities, click on the image below:

matilda

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory Activities – Chocolate Bath Salt

Chocolate Bubble Bath is such an easy win with the kids. As part of a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory day, it’s a perfect way to end the day too.

Although you only add about 2 tablespoons of cocoa to your bath water, it’s more than enough to fill the bathroom with the aroma and scent of chocolate, but it’s also not that sickly sweet smell you’d get from chocolate sauce, for example. In addition, Epsom salt is great for pulling aches and pains out of the body, but more importantly – it helps induce a deep sleep! Can you hear me parents? A deep sleep!DIY Chocolate Bath Salt

It’s the simplest ‘recipe’ ever too – you can get the kids to make this one up.

All you need is:

1 cup Epsom salts – great for inducing deep sleep

1 tablespoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)- for a bit of a ‘fizz’ as it hits the water

2 tablespoons cocoa powder – for that chocolatey yumminess

You can’t really go wrong on this. If you have a bit more Epsom salts or a bit less baking soda, it’s not the end of the world – it will still work just fine.

Put the Epsom salts into a sealable jar, add the baking soda and the cocoa powder and shake for a few seconds till it’s all well combined. Pour into a warm bath and top up with your regular bubble bath – you’ll have the bubbles on top, and the chocolate below.

Enjoy!

Study Unit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Find more Charlie & The Chocolate Factory activities here.

Gelatin Bird Feeders For The Garden (With Recipe)

I love the idea of helping out nature, though living on a lush green Island with rolling hills and meadows, it can be hard to imagine that we need to. But, because here and now we might not need to, doesn’t mean I don’t need to instil a wish to protect our wildlife in my children. At five and three they are perfectly capable of learning how, and now is the time that they are still so full of enthusiasm, so it’s the perfect time to do it.

Recently we’ve been talking about birds and how birds fly, and the different types of birds and all that, so it seemed fitting to make gelatin bird feeders for the garden, though this is something we’d normally do in Autumn. We don’t actually have a garden either, so we’ve just hung them in trees around us.
bird feeders

These bird feeders are made with gelatin, as they last a little longer than for example peanut butter, and gelatin isn’t harmful to the birds – and probably helps their beaks grow stronger too!

We’ve made them in cookie cutters so that we can play with the shapes, and have fun with them. Since we live by the sea, we’ve even had a few ships to hang in the trees.

Birdfeeders

Tip: Don’t hang them in direct sunlight. If it gets too hot the gelatin begins to melt. Also, press as much together as you can in one shape to hold them tightly together. Gelatin Bird Feeders

How to make gelatin bird feeders:

  1. To make the birdfeeders, plan on a packet of gelatin (powder) to a cup of bird seed. So if you’re making two cups (500ml) bird seed, add two packets of gelatin and so on.
  2. Prepare the gelatin to the manufacturers directions, but only add 1 cup of water to one packet of gelatin (250ml water). (Or double if you’re making double) It needs to be thicker than jelly to hold it all together. Once the gelatin has melted, leave it to cool for a couple of minutes, then add in the bird seed. It mustn’t be runny and since your seed may differ to mine, just add more if it’s too wet and liquid.
  3. Stir in well till all the seed is coated, then scoop in to your waiting shapes.
  4. We scoop half the amount needed to fill the shape, then add a length of string, before adding in the rest of the seed, so that the string is in the centre when you pull the shape out of the cutter. Press down firmly to compact everything as much as possible, before setting aside overnight to dry.
  5. Don’t leave in the sun or it may melt again.
  6. Carefully remove from the cutter, and hang somewhere to enjoy.

Google ‘garden birds’ in your local area and see if you can find a checklist of what you should be able to find in your country. Keep an eye on your bird feeder and see how many local birds you can spot in your garden.

We love the RSPB’s ‘First’ Series of books. They are perfect for small people.  And why not turn it into a full experience by using a bird watching kit to really feel like a nature explorer.

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Skills - Sensory Skills - Explore Nature Skills - Creativity

Five Recipes For A Naturally Clean House – Chemical-Free Cleaning Made Easy

Following on from Tuesday’s post, Chemical-Free Cleaning Made Easy, Delena from The Modern Aboriginal Mama shares five recipes for a naturally clean house. Please ask her any questions in the comment section below!

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Cleaning house can be such a chore, but it doesn’t have to be! Ever since I made the switch to natural cleaning products, I have discovered the rewards and joy of keeping a clean house.

In the last post about chemical-free cleaners, I wrote about your fundamental cleaning agents: baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice. You can use bottled lemon juice, or fresh-squeezed; it makes little difference as long as the bottled juice is as close to natural as you can find.

With apple cider vinegar, you want to encourage something called “mothering.” Let the vinegar sit in a dark, dry, cool place until it develops that cloudy sediment at the bottom. You want this to happen because you’ll add it to your new bottle of vinegar. This helps the apple cider vinegar mature, which increases its effectiveness. If you give it a good sniff, you’ll notice that the sharpness of the scent is curbed a little, becoming stronger but also richer. This is a sign of good mothering!

The ingredient of natural cleaners that makes all the difference is completely customizable to accomplish different objectives: essential oils, or E.O. Essential oils are the volatile oils distilled from leaves, flowers, bark, roots, stems, and other elements of herbs. What makes it so potent is that it is not diluted into a neutral carrier oil like you find at the store. Be careful because they can be harmful if it comes into contact with skin, the mucous membranes, or if swallowed.

Some are safe for ingestion in small quantities, but just to be on the safe side, stick with using it in your cleaning agents. For parents with little ones, make sure to keep the E.O.’s in a cupboard out of reach!

The basic Essential Oils I use are lavender, tea tree, rosemary, eucalyptus, and lemongrass.

Tea Tree is my favorite: it is anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial, as well as effective against mites and head lice. It’s effective even diluted as much as down to a 5% solution. I use it in every single one of my cleaning mixtures.

Lavender is a gentler anti-bacterial E.O. It’s not as powerful as Tea Tree, but it has other soothing benefits and more people like the scent of lavender, finding Tea Tree a little harsh.

Rosemary is another anti-septic, as well as Eucalyptus. Used in tandem, they’re my next best thing if I run out of Tea Tree Oil.

Lemongrass is great for an insect repellant. Ants absolutely hate the smell of lemongrass and won’t come near it.

Recipes

Chemical-Free Carpet De-Odorizer

  • 2 cups baking soda per room
  • 5-7 drops Lemongrass E.O. Per 2 cups baking soda

Stir E.O. into the baking soda, spreading it evenly. It should form the consistency of wet sand. Let dry. Sprinkle over carpet and let sit a minimum of 20 minutes. Vacuum.

Chemical-Free All-Purpose Surface Cleaner

  • 1 part apple cider vinegar to 4 parts water (can be diluted to 5 parts water if the vinegar smell really isn’t your thing)
  • Optional: 3-5 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil OR 2 drops Rosemary & 3 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Mix into a spray bottle and use as you would any all-purpose cleaner. The vinegar smell will disappear as the solution dries.

Chemical-Free Cleaner

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 7-8 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • water

Mix ingredients into a paste. (It will not stay mixed, so you’ll need to mix it back up occasionally.) Spoon a dollop onto the surface you wish to clean. It’s non-scratch, so it’s safe to use on porcelain and sink fixtures. Also safe to use a little extra and allow to sit on stained surfaces. Use a rag or a soft scrubber to scrub and disinfect the surface. Wipe clean with a damp cloth, or with the All-Purpose Surface Cleaner or All-Purpose Rinse Solution.

Natural Fabric Softener

  • ½ cup to 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Add to rinse cycle of your wash instead of fabric softener. Fortify the softening process with 6-8 dryer balls inside the dryer for soft clothes without the chemicals!

Natural All-Purpose Rinse Solution

For all you gardeners out there, here’s a recipe using fresh herbs:

  • 1 lg handful fresh rosemary
  • 1 lg handful fresh sage
  • 1 gal hot water

Steep herbs in sink (or other container) like you would any regular tea. When the water is as dark as it’s going to get (it won’t get really dark), dip in a rag and wipe down any surfaces like counter tops, stove tops, surface of the fridge, walls, and can even be used as a mopping solution for the floor. It’s a gentle disinfectant and wonderful deodorizer!

Any questions? Ask away!

Chemical-Free Cleaning Made Easy | The 3 Basic Natural Cleaning Ingredients

Last January, one of my ‘resolutions’ for the new year was to eradicated chemical cleaners from our home. I was first going to ‘use up’ what we already had, and then make the switch. That took almost ten months and then we moved. Now that we’re returning to our own place, I’ve been revisiting that old resolution and making conscious steps to make this change in our home.  Please welcome Delena from The Modern Aboriginal Mother – she’s going to share with you (and me) why and how she made the change from chemical cleaners to natural alternatives.  Please leave any questions, thoughts or comments below!

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Have you ever looked at your supply of house cleaners and wondered if there was an easier way? For those of you with family members who have asthma or other sensitivities, have you ever worried about how all those chemicals were affecting them?

I’m an asthmatic, too, and Cleaning Day used to trigger the most horrific asthma attacks that even my inhalers wouldn’t completely help. It got so bad that I would dread cleaning anything, and it was torture! What’ll happen when I have a baby crawling around? I thought.

The idea that my son could get into the cleaning cabinet and make himself dangerously ill is what motivated me to experiment with other cleaning alternatives. Growing up, my mother used to stick a box of baking soda in the fridge to absorb odors, and would use it on her coffee mugs to get rid of the black stains at the bottom of the cup.

One day I tried it for myself, and after that there was no stopping me! The more I discovered about natural cleaning alternatives, the more I experimented. Cleaning Day became fun for the simple fact that I no longer had to cough and wheeze and clutch my inhalor for dear life.

If you’re anything like me, sometimes a new process can seem so daunting you don’t know where to begin. Or maybe you’re wondering if these alternatives will get the job done as well as the supplies you use right now. I can understand that. All I can say is that after about ten years of natural cleaning, we are happier, healthier, and I no longer have any worries about cleaning hazards around my baby. In fact, everything I use is safe to ingest; not that it would taste very good, I imagine, but I never worry about calling Poison Control if my daughter gets into my cleaning supplies.

Making the choice to go with natural cleaning is to be applauded; what we expend in a little more time and effort is rewarded tenfold in health, safety, and peace of mind.

Getting Started

The first thing to do would be to look in your cabinets and refrigerator. Do you have baking soda? Lemon juice? How about apple cider vinegar? Old newspapers lying around?

Do you?

Congratulations! You have a great start to your new cleaning supplies!

So where to begin? What, exactly, do you need to start moving away from cleaning with harsh chemicals and using more natural cleaning supplies?

Your introduction to the foundational ingredients of chemical-free cleaning

Baking soda: This one is your staple, and the base of just about every cleaner you’ll ever use in the kitchen or bathroom. It’s a great natural scrubber without damaging surfaces. It deodorizes as well as brightens surfaces. Over time, it’ll whiten grout without bleaching the tiles beside it; it’ll give the tiles a nice shine, though.

Apple cider vinegar: This makes a fantastic all-purpose cleaner, and is great on glass. Mix equal parts vinegar and water, and you have a glass cleaner that can’t be beat. And for an environmentally-friendly alternative to paper towels, use newspaper to clean the glass: the ink won’t get on the glass (it will on your fingertips, maybe) and it’s recycleable!

Apple cider vinegar is also a gentle disinfectant and a great deodorizer. The vinegar smell disappears once it evaporates, leaving behind a fresh clean scent without the harsh chemical smell.

Lemon juice: This is another amazing brightener. It also dissolves hard soap scum and hard water deposits. A mixture of two parts water to one part cider vinegar and one part lemon juice cycled through the coffee machine will clean it really well. It shines brass fixtures and copper pots without scratching or damaging them, too.

Where natural cleaning gets really fun is when you work with essential oils to enhance the effectiveness of your basic cleaning supplies. In Part II of this post, I’ll go into the best E.O.’s for cleaning, and give a few of my favorite cleaning recipes.

Until then, have fun experimenting!