Tomorrow is my first day of school with students. True to form, I am completely nervous, and I probably won’t sleep well tonight, all in anticipation of what will undoubtedly be a wonderful year. I have something on my side though…
A few years ago I started a tradition of using magic play dough to kick off the year. It has been a wonderful success, so I wanted to share it here. The idea is simple. I prepare enough balls of “magic” play dough beforehand. Here are the simple steps:
First, make the play dough, with no food coloring added. My favorite recipe is: 4 cups flour, 4 cups water, 1 cup salt, and 1/2 cup of cream of tartar. Mix everything together, and heat over the stove. Stir continuously until it resembles play dough. Pull it out of the pot, kneed it a little, and voila! This play dough is cheap, easy, and lasts a really long time when kept in a Ziploc bag! I have to make four batches for a class of twenty-five students.
After the play dough is made and cooled, form individual balls. I always make enough for every student, as well as a few extra. In addition, be sure to reserve some extra dough to use later – about enough for two balls.
Next, use your thumb to make a small well in each ball. It should not be too deep – about half way in to the center of the ball.
Then add several drops of food coloring to each ball, being careful to put the drops into the center of the well. I recommend seven to ten drops. Bright colors are best. Avoid yellow and orange.
Finally, use a small bit of the extra dough to “plug” each ball up. Your goal is to make them look like they are plain play dough balls – nothing more.
I package all of the play dough balls up with a little note. It says something very simple, like:
“Dear Students, Here is some magic play dough to help you begin your year. Play with the play dough, and observe. If something special happens, that is a sign that you will have a wonderful year! Enjoy! ~ A Friend”
I have someone deliver the mysterious package to the classroom, so they can tell it is not from me! (Get ready and put your game face on.
Pass out the play dough, and watch the magic happen. As the kids play with the play dough, they will mix the food coloring in to the dough, and each ball will turn colors. The kids get SO excited, and you have an incredibly exciting, and positive, start to the year!