Snowy White Play Dough

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I love making homemade play dough with a seasonal theme, and this snowy white version is perfect now that winter is near and snowy days are ahead! The secret to that pure white is to use cornstarch instead of regular flour.

To make this silky-smooth play dough, combine the following in a bowl:

1 and 1/2 cups cornstarch

1/2 cup salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon cream of tartar

Add 1 cup boiling water and stir until combined. Let cool.

Place the dough on a craft tray and knead to the right consistency. You may need to sprinkle with a little extra cornstarch. We also then added a little bit of silver glitter, which made it sparkle just like fresh-fallen snow.

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Now it was time to play! Veronika had so much fun with this snowy-themed dough. First we simply rolled out snowballs or snowmen. Red beads made fun decorations!

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It was also great as pretend cookie dough, and I gave Veronika star- and snowman-shaped cookie cutters to keep with our seasonal theme.

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Her favorite use for it, though, was pretending it was a layer of arctic ice (or, as she called it, the snowy beach). I pulled out a set of arctic animals who could romp through this wintry land.

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“Seal is on the beach!” she would say with delight, or, “Orca is in the water!”

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The play dough is also great for leaving animal “tracks” in the snow. She loved hopping along an arctic hare or stomping along the wolf and fox.

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After spending some time with the play dough together, it was great for her solo play, too; I loved seeing her imagination and senses at work.

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Reindeer Handprint Ornament

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This sweet keepsake captures the size of your child’s handprint around the holidays, and results in an adorable reindeer ornament that you’ll be sure to hang on the tree for many years to come.

For this particular handprint, you can paint your child’s hand with brown paint and then press firmly onto brown felt or brown craft foam. However, I decided last minute to use a deep orange paint instead, which I thought would pop a little more against the brown. It ended up looking great!

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I painted Veronika’s palm with the orange paint, and then she eagerly (and very helpfully!) spread her fingers for a perfect print on the felt.

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In fact, she loved it so much that she asked me to paint her hand again, and then both hands, and loved making a few extra prints on scrap paper. Needless to say, we needed a quick emergency bath.

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Meanwhile, glue the felt to a piece of thin cardboard (such as an old cereal box) and let the paint and glue dry completely. Once dry, cut out around the handprint. Use a hole punch to make an eye near the top of the thumb. Draw a red nose on the tip of the thumb, then cut a small slit near where antlers would be. Slip in a V-shaped length of sparkly red pipe cleaner for the antlers.

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Punch one final hole in the top center and add red yarn or ribbon. Now Rudolph is on our Christmas tree!

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Ice Skating Rink

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This special holiday crate from Kiwi Co. is a fantastic way to fit in a STEM activity this holiday season, whether you’re currently home-schooling, or school has gone remote once more, or you just have extra hours to fill indoors now that cold afternoons are here!

To start, Travis screwed the provided table leg pegs into bolts so that the wooden base of the skating rink stands sturdily just above the ground.

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That quickly, it was time for wires and batteries… The good stuff! Travis loved helping insert batteries into the provided case and attaching to the bottom of the table base with sticky foam. The provided motor sticks on next, and he then helped connect the wires: red to red and black to black.

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Turn the table over and add the center gear on the peg above the motor. Additional gears then slot in between this central one and the outer frame.

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The hardest part of the whole project, oddly, was the background decorations that came next. The provided snowy backdrop and trees are supposed to fit into slits in the felt, but it’s very hard to get them to stay put. This is a minor quibble, since the decor is cute but not necessary for the rink to work.

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So we moved on to the real excitement! The “skaters” are tiny felt figures (gingerbread men, penguins, and snowmen) who each slot into a metal nut. These are placed on the plastic that covers the gears, which each have magnets. So once kids switch the motor on, the gears begin to spin and the magnets on the gears are attracted to the metal of the the nuts, making those little felt figures skate around.

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Truth be told, the contraption is very temperamental and the felt figures easily snap out of their metal nut. Likewise, the magnets come off of the gears very easily, so we had to do lots of fixing and problem solving in between rounds of having the motor on. But here’s an adorable clip of the rink in motion!

I loved the way Travis quickly learned to troubleshoot these glitches. He had his head bent over the skating rink along with little sister Veronika, both of them delighting as they watched the figures snap onto the magnets to skate, then laughing at how quickly everything tumbled apart, then fixing it and starting all over.

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In sum, a great STEM project. Plus, the booklet had in-depth explanations about why ice is slippery and about precisely how the gears and magnets work to make the contraption move.

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