Thanksgiving Turkey Play Dough

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After having fun with a construction paper turkey craft, I wanted a version Veronika could more readily create all by herself. The solution? Play dough turkeys!

To start, I needed a batch of brown play dough and turned to an old favorite recipe for pumpkin pie-scented play dough that fit both color and season. It does require cooking, but is remarkably easy. In saucepan, combine:

2 and 3/4 cups flour

1 cup salt

4 teaspoons cream of tartar

2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups water

Cook over low heat, stirring with a spatula, until the mixture pulls from the sides of the pan. Let cool on wax paper, then knead a few times and it’s ready to go!

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I set out balls of the play dough on a tray along with: wiggle eyes, pipe cleaners (cut in half, which is an easier length for my toddler), bright feathers, and triangles cut from orange craft foam for beaks.

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Veronika loved it when I showed her how to make balls for heads and bodies, then decorate like a little turkey.  She very soon started her own version. “It’s Mr.Turkey!” she said, proudly.

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From there, she was off and running with her own creations. She loved poking pipe cleaners and feathers into the soft dough.

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The biggest hit, though, was adding wiggle eyes, which were “cheeks” and more, according to her narration.

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It turned out the craft foam “beaks: could be used more like little turkey feathers, too!

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Every once in a while she would lift the dough to her nose to inhale deeply. “It smells really good!” she said of the pumpkin pie spice.

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For fun, I also made a flatter turkey body and head for her to decorate, and we added looped pipe cleaners and smaller feathers to this one.

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After that, she kept playing with all the materials for a while… So long in fact that it kept her up past her normal nap time!

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Simple Block Learning: Shapes and Colors

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This idea was an extension on recent block puzzle play with Veronika. But this time, she had to puzzle out two variables at once: color and shape.

To start, I laid down a sheet of butcher paper and began to trace some of her soft foam blocks, making sure to use a corresponding crayon color for every block color.

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She immediately was naming shapes and colors as I worked and wanted to trace (i.e. scribble) alongside me! In retrospect, I would set this up while she was napping for a cleaner piece of paper.

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But eventually, I had enough shapes traced for the real puzzling to begin. It was neat to see her mind work through this activity. She immediately put a red triangle in place when I pointed out the red outline.

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Rectangles threw her off since we had both short ones and long ones, and she tended to either mix up the two or orient her rectangles in the wrong direction.

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Often, she proudly laid down a shape in the right outline (e.g. square in square), without any regard for the color.

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And all of that was perfectly fine! I loved that this was a challenge for her, and how gamely she rose to it.

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The activity also lends itself perfectly to extended play. Once all those shapes were in place, we could start connecting them like bridges into ever-bigger structures and towers.

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Without any prompting, she trotted away and then brought back a toy car. Now we had tunnels for cars to go through or garages to park them in!

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We eventually re-positioned the blocks into one long road for her to drive cars down, which she loved.

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She played solo so happily and I caught her driving cars up one side of a triangle block and down the other, almost like it was a mini mountain.

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And through all of this, she kept up the narrative of shapes and colors to herself. This activity was a true joy.