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.


Matilda’s Chocolate Playdough – Fantastic Playdough Recipe!
Author: Luschka – adapted from Imagination Tree
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
  • 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
  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:


Study Unit: Roald Dahl’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Last year my children had watched most of the Roald Dahl movies available on the market, but we hadn’t read any of the books, so our Roald Dahl inspired arts and crafts were varied and mixed. Over the last few weeks we’ve been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, however, so all our activities the last few weeks have been around that.

Next week we’ll be working on Matilda, so check back in if you love that book too!

PIN THIS: Roald Dahl WeekThere are two versions of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie:

And there is the book, famously illustrated by Quentin Blake

While we like having fun with our ‘themes’ as we call them, I do try to bring elements of learning into them too. Remembering that my children are 5 & 3, I do keep things pretty simple, but I’m quite excited about the possibilities of redoing all these themes in years to come, and seeing how much they have grown in their understanding, and how much ‘deeper’ we can go on each topic.

Having watched the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie and read the book, I decided to do a reading comprehension ‘test’. I designed a comparison chart, so Ameli could compare what happens in the book with what happens in the movie, and also make a note of major things that happen in a similar fashion. For example, in the book, Mr Bucket tells them about the golden ticket competition, in the movie, Charlie sees the posters going up. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Reading Comprehension Worksheet

Sticking with the loose ‘English’ or ‘Language Learning topic, we decided to make up words, something Roald Dahl is incredibly good at! This little making up words activity went down a charm, and made an amazing platform for telling our own stories. Make up words like Roald Dahl

I use the word math very lightly here, but since we’re starting out, we used measuring a bag of candies as an introduction to units of measurement.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Units of Measurement

It’s Charlie and the CHOCOLATE factory, so we had to get some inventing with chocolate going – I went for the easy option and made Jazzies, with DIY decorations for my little inventors. DIY Jazzies Charlie & The Chocolate FactoryNot all the creative activities this weeks should include tons of sugar, so we decided to make our own party decor. We made giant lollipops, giant boiled sweets, and giant lollipop swirls. This was a great afternoon’s paper sweet crafting.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Decor


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a great theme for introducing some science too – see what happens with popping candy when you pour water, coke and then vinegar into three different bowls and top them with popping candy.  Measure jelly babies and put them in a bowl over night – how much did they grow? Put boiled sweets (the kind with stripes on them) into a bowl with a few drops of water. What happens to the sweets? How do the colours disperse? Could you do it on paper and see what happens with the colours? Does the paper remain in tact? Put boiled sweets in mould and put them into the oven. When they melt, do the colours mix? Do they retain their shape? Do they re-set into their new shapes? There are loads of candy experiments you can try!

At the end of a long and exciting week of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, everyone needs a good, long, relaxing bath, so this Chocolate Bath Salt recipe smells delicious, and helps induce a deep sleep too.

DIY Chocolate Bath Salt

Printable Unit Plan

Click on this image for a downloadable, printable study unit plan.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

What have other Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fans been up to?

How To Make A Bird Mobile

bird mobile bird mobileMy girls and I have been talking about birds the last few days, inspired by the ‘how do birds fly?’ question. One of the things we’ve done is look at the difference in beaks, wings and tails on different birds, and in the course of our play-learning, we decided to make a bird mobile.

The girls then decided they wanted it to be a present for the new baby upstairs from us, so we took it to them. They didn’t look quite as impressed with it as the girls (and I!) were, but never mind – we enjoyed making and gifting it.

What you need to make a bird mobile:

You will need:

  • Bird template: Print the template for bird mobile here. I couldn’t fit our coloured paper into the printer, so printed onto white paper, laminated it and then traced onto coloured paper.
  • Glue: a glue gun works best for these sorts of projects! This is a great little glue gun* from Amazon
  • String: we used a beautiful decorative string with butterflies and beads. I can’t find it online, but there are similar here. You can add bells too.
  • Corrugated paper
  • Scissors
  • Black pen

How to make your bird mobile

To start with, I found bird templates online, and put them on a document – you can print that here if you want to use the same ones – before cutting them out and laminating them so we could use them again.

Next, trace the outline of each bird, then flip it over to trace the mirror image (for the ‘back’).  If you use double sided paper, it’s easier, but then your string will be visible in the final product.

Fill in the extra bits with a black pen – like the wings, the beak, feathers and so on.

Glue the two halves together, leaving a small gap at the top for the string to go in. (Or glue the string on one half, then glue the two halves of paper together.)

Use a sharp cutter to cut through the centre of the appropriate birds to slot the ‘wings’ through.

You may also need to ‘trim’ around each bird to make sure it’s identical back and front.

Cut the string to the appropriate length, and glue to a strip of corrugated paper. Cut an equal sized strip to cover it, so the string is sandwiched in between. Add another bit of string to the other side of the corrugated paper to act as a hanger.

Leave everything to dry, then hang out your lovely bird mobile!

Talking points while making your bird mobile:

How do birds differ?

Are all their wings the same?  How about tails and beaks? How do different birds use their different shapes?

What birds do you think these shapes represent? (My girls said Blue Tit, Dove and Swallow).

For more learning activites about birds, click here. For more nature activities, click here.

Skills - Creativity Skills - Explore Nature


Fabulous Ideas For World Book Day {PlayLearning}

Thursday is World Book Day, and aside from Ameli’s preschool getting the kids to come it in pyjamas and with teddy bears, I thought that would make a great theme for this week, following on nicely from last week’s Dr.Seuss theme, and incorporating some of it for the week ahead. We’ve chosen our favourite stories to focus on this week, and for us, they are Peter Pan, Dr. Seuss, Charlie and Lola, Winnie the Pooh and Scruffy Teddy.

Here are some of the ideas from around the web that we will be incorporating into our crafting and activity ‘PlayLearning’ time this week.

World Book Day

Peter Pan

  • Read Peter Pan. There are a lot of versions of the story available, and of course, any are fine, but we have this beautiful pop up Peter Pan, complete with sound. It’s really fabulous, and the complete story.
  • Dress Up as Peter Pan or Tinkerbell, and play act bits from the book.
  • Make a teepee for Tigerlilly and friends
  • Go on a treasure hunt with your own treasure map
  • Make edible fairy dust
  • And finally, a Peter Pan mobile could make a lovely gift for a friend with a new baby!

Dr Seuss

Well, we did a whole long list of Dr Seuss activities last week, so I’m not going to repeat it all here, but will tell you that we are having a Dr Seuss party on Tuesday, and we can’t wait. I’m going to use our room decor from this week to decorate the hall into a Truffula Tree forest. We also lovedthese One Fish Two Fish savoury crackers.

Charlie and Lola

I currently have this scheduled for Wednesday, and we don’t have a lot of time for crafting activities on a Wednesday, but I found this post, and it’s full of Charlie and Lola themed activities – seriously, this is one cool mama!

Winnie the Pooh

  • We had a Winnie the Pooh themed birthday party for Ameli when she turned 2, and there’s been a long-standing love for the Bear of very Little Brain since long before, so it was
  • I have notoriously bad luck with this kind of thing, but I love the look of these boiled honey sweets, especially as I sit here with a sore throat.
  • Also, I love this idea for a bit of word bingo and teaching the children to pay attention to the details in a story.
  • Finally, this wall art is fabulous if you have a book that’s not in great condition, or can print some pages, but I think it’s probably more mama-art than toddlers!

See our other book themed activities here

Here’s our Pinterest board for World Book Week, feel free to follow along!
Follow Luschka van Onselen’s board {PlayLearning} World Book Day on Pinterest.

A - Z Book Day Costumes
Courtesy of: A2Z Kids

disclaimer for links

Growing Beans And Onions Indoors

A few weeks ago we had ‘Growing‘ as our PlayLearning theme, during which we planted three types of beans and some onions. Over the last three weeks I have taken photos of their progress, and here they are below.

Growing Beans

Ironically, the dwarf bean sprouted roots and shoots much sooner than the broad bean or barlotti bean. We’ve now replanted them into soil as I’m not sure how long they were going to survive on just water and cotton wool!

The onions were a fun experiment too. I’m waiting a few more days before I start using these, because, to be honest, I have no idea what to do with them! I found this idea on Pinterest, but there weren’t instructions beyond the actual putting it together. I don’t know if you’re supposed to harvest the onions at some point, or if you just enjoy the greens indefinitely! Anyway… we’ll enjoy the greens for now, and see what happens.

It’s quite a cool and fun thing to have in the kitchen though. I think it looks great.

Growing onions

What are you growing this year?

Skills - Builds Confidence Skills - Explore Nature

Mamatography 2014 – Week 5: Quiet Craftiness

We’ve had a quiet week at home. Really, after the madness of the last six weeks or so, if I can get out of my pajamas, it’s a good day. So I’ve been focusing my attention on the girls, and on trying to bring some stability back into their days. That’s the hard part of this job, isn’t it? It doesn’t really matter what you’re thinking, feeling or going through, when they’re too young to understand, you just have to get on with it!

23 & 24: Australia Day. We did a whole week’s worth of Australia Day activities to celebrate the day… just for fun, really.

25: Laundry: Well, I don’t know that we’ll have any more babies, and these are some of the clothes we rescued from the flooded garage, so I’m thinking of just selling it all now. At least it’s cleaned and ready to be worn by the next baba that needs it.

26 – 29: Chinese New Year: Again, just for fun, really, we decided to celebrate Chinese New Year, so had a week full of activities for that.

Some days I find it hard to get out of bed at the moment. That’s truth. That’s real. But pictures don’t show that. That’s okay. In years to come, I hope my girls remember these things, rather than the mama who felt really low on motivation and energy.


 This post is part of the Mamatography 2014 Project with Diary of a First Child and Momma Jorje.

We are taking (at least) a photo a day, a collage or a picture each week to keep a record of our year. Join us at any point during the year and start sharing your own daily photos!

Click Get the code here below to add the blog hop to your blog and join the fun. (Also sign up to be added to a comment group!)

{PlayLearning} Autumn Sensory Boxes

I do love Autumn in England. It is incredibly beautiful. We seem to have skipped Autumn, as far as temperatures are concerned, which is unfortunate, as Autumn sunshine mixed with reds, browns, yellows and the remaining greens are one of nature’s treasures, in my view. I’ve started doing Autumn appreciation activities with the girls, and our Season Tree now hangs on our ‘school board’ where all our current arts and crafts go every week.20130918-163934.jpg

Today I had an unexpected  home day due to a bad night with little Aviya and the case of the persistent molars so I thought I’d share our Autumn themed sensory play boxes with you.

A few weeks ago a friend and I joined forces and made a whole lot of Autumnal play rice – we use vinegar instead of alcohol – in a range of colours. I think it turned out beautifully!


With the help of Amazon and glitter, our Autumn Rice Box turned out like this:


We bought leaves from Amazon (48 Autumn Leavesand artificial flowers from a local shop. You can find similar ones on Amazon  ( RosesArtificial Flowerstoo, and turned a pot of gold glitter out over the whole lot – this turned out to be Ameli’s favourite part. I had thought to use red glitter, but decided that would be more Christmassy and I’d save that for the Christmas box.

Children are interesting creatures, to say the least. With Ameli around, Aviya will get knee deep into the play rice and love it. When she’s on her own though, she cant spend a good 25 minutes with her Autumn nature box. It looks sparsely populated, but she does really well playing with the pine cones, acorns and leaves.


I decided to add a new dimension to the nature box – smell – and added some whole nutmeg and cinnamon sticks to the mix. I’d say they’ve gone down well too!


Do you have an Autumn Sensory box? Pop them on my Facebook wall. I’d love to see what you’re doing to celebrate Autumn or Fall!

Mamatography Week 32: Beaches, Art And Food

I’m still playing catch up on Mamatography, after an incredibly busy summer holiday. Here’s week 32 for you.

Day 219 – Sandy Beach

There are very few sandy beaches in the UK. It’s normally pebbles. West Wittering is different – it’s a lovely sandy beach. It has a special place in my heart as its where I came to still myself when Aviya was ‘over due’. I have beautiful memories here.

Day 220 – Street Art

Local Doula Susan Merrick spent the afternoon in Guildford doing street art. She used make up to paint a pregnant woman. It was really beautiful, and watching her was lovely. It even entranced the children for over an hour. The point was to make people think about what they put on their faces, on their skins, and so, into their blood streams.

Day 221 – Aubergine

I got some beautiful flowers on my aubergine (egg plant) but was told that it would be very hard, if not impossible to grow aubergines in the UK. This one has two aubergines! Evidence of how warm it’s been this summer! I am crazy excited about these two beauties!

Day 222 – Pampered Chef

A friend of mine is a Pampered Chef consultant. She hosts parties where the children get to make pizzas using the pampered chef equipment, giving the mamas time to browse the catalogue, in theory anyway. It was chaotic but fun. I enjoyed it, at least!

Day 223 – Operation Own Bed

Ameli will be four soon, and I’d love for my hubby and I to have a shared bed again one day, without the girls in it, so we’re slowly trying to encourage Ameli to at least start the evening off in her own bed. The first night she only spent a couple of hours in it, but we trust it will improve.

Day 224 – Bake Sale 

A bake sale in aid of the La Leche League in Farnham. A good day out with lots of goodies, and lots of money raised.

Day 225 – Dr.Seuss Week

Our PlayLearning Theme this week is Dr.Seuss. We’ve had a grand ol’ time, learning to rhyme, with made up words and strange looking birds, what fun it is, to learn with these. 😉

Thanks for joining us for our week in pictures!