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Burning Daylight: Mixing It Up Edition (homemade: bubbles, playdough, sidewalk chalk)

By Melissa Summers

We spent a lot of time mixing this week. First we made bubbles. This particular recipe calls for glycerin which is “commonly available at drugstores”. Not at my drugstore but after furtively browsing the laxative aisle I remembered baby laxatives are often glycerin suppositories. I’m not going to lie and tell you I didn’t feel weird buying these two items together. I felt so awkward I threw in a Snickers bar just so I wasn’t only buying laxatives and soap.
I apparently didn’t do a very good job making our bubbles because they, pardon my crassness, sucked. They were too thin maybe? And resulted in about 5 minutes of very frustrating daylight being burned.
Next we moved onto making our own chalk. My daughter loves plaster of paris, once as a toddler she coated herself in it. So they enjoyed seeing how this stuff is supposed to work. It all went well when I went with one color and put it in dixie cups to set up.
But then I got daring and thought, why don’t we mix up a big batch, add paint to each color and then put them in an egg carton to dry? This product sets up awfully fast so, unless you like being frustrated, don’t do it this way. Also, don’t give your daughter the paint to put in because “add a little at a time” has no meaning relatively speaking. It’s like when my husband used to be in charge of the checkbook and would tell me, “Don’t spend a lot of money!” Without a definition of “a lot” this means nothing.
This version of our chalk didn’t work out quite as well.
I’d have a hard time making my own sidewalk chalk on a regular basis because while we were at the store, I saw a box of 35 pieces of chalk for $3. If the kids or I enjoyed the process of making it we might do it, but no one was particularly into the process. I will say the colors, even on the not as nice looking batch are quite vibrant and their softer feel makes them easier to draw with.

The chalk paint was much easier to mix and work with. We used sponge brushes to paint with it but it didn’t appeal to my kids in the same way the store bought version does. I ended up putting the paint in a spray bottle and this was wildly entertaining for my 8 year old for about 15 minutes. Our scheduled play group was canceled but I suspect very young kids would be entertained by the mess this stuff can make for many hours. (It’s exceedingly simple to clean off, literally a wipe with your hand removes it.)
Our biggest hit, by far, with 5 hours of daylight burned so far is Play Dough! I made a large batch the night before, divided the dough into six balls and added food coloring from the craft store cake decorating department to the middle of the balls.
I did not tell the kids the secret and Max wondered what all the pizza dough was doing in the fridge and when I pulled it out to play with Madison asked why they had to play with vanilla play dough. As they started to play they figured it out.
The kneading process took a little parental help, but they were pretty excited to get the color to come through and thrilled to move on to the next ball of dough while I got the color evenly distributed. We ended up with lovely brightly colored dough. As an added tip, err on the side of too much food coloring, lest you end up with a gray ball of dough.
Of all the projects we did this week this is the one I most highly recommend. The fun of finding out which color was inside was one thing but as I type this we just crossed the 7 hour mark of daylight burned by play dough. Nice.

Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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  • Marcie

    July 19, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    I use kool-Aid for the colouring. It works so well and the play-doh smells great!

  • Judy

    July 19, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    How fun, I’m loving this series! Which play-dough recipe did you use? Thanks!

  • Veronique

    July 19, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Great projects! After searching high and low, I finally found Glycerin at Michael’s craft stor in the baking section (I think it’s used for icing…). When I asked about it at the third drugstore they mumbled something about 9/11 — I have no idea what the connection could be.

  • liza bennett

    July 19, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    there are many recipes for play dough at the site you linked- which one do you recommend?
    homeschooling ema

  • foodmomiac

    July 19, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Which playdough recipe did you use? That looks like a ton of fun.

  • Susan

    July 19, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    I love the playdough idea, especially the bit about the food coloring inside the ball of dough. My older son has fine motor skills issues and playdough was always something the OTs said would help, but since his attention span for it is about three minutes (long enough to realize that THIS IS NOT A BIONICLE! AAAAA!) this may help.

  • erika

    July 19, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    Did you use the first play dough recipe? I love this idea!

  • michelle westerdale

    July 19, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Which playdough recipe did you use?

  • Amy

    July 19, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    Cripes, you are wondermom! My kids are thrilled when I BUY them chalk.

  • Melissa Jonas

    July 20, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    My experience with bubbles is that you need the petroleum-based dish soap for it to work. Enviro-friendly soap sucks for bubbles.

  • Melanie

    July 20, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    I love the idea of hiding the color inside the play-dough. I’ve been meaning to make some again, because for some reason I can no longer stand the smell of the store stuff, but homemade is okay. I’ve used Kool-Aid for color, and never again – the smell was too strong and the color not strong enough. I’m also enticed by sidewalk paint, especially because my son thinks food coloring is the holy grail of great things to play with, so he’d have a blast mixing it up.

  • MelissaS

    July 21, 2007 at 8:28 am

    sorry guys I missed these questions!
    I used the first play dough recipe which is the same one I used from my days as “Play Dough Mom” at preschool. I won an award even!
    It’s a really easy process and if you use a non stick pot it’s even easier.
    That recipe gave us enough to make 6 smallish sized balls of dough. I love homemade play dough so much more than store bought. It’s easier to play with and feels so much better being squished around in your hands.
    The kids have been taking it outside and stomping on it in their bare feet. Another hour burned! Wooo!
    Oh and don’t forget the idea from Anonymous about adding glitter to the dough, you could put it in the middle with the coloring. I didn’t do this because I threw out our glitter after the painting experiment.

  • Belinda

    July 21, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    I make soap, and I have buckets of glycerin. Never found any at the drugstore, though! It’s cheap and widely available online, though, should the need ever arise again. Just check soaping suppliers.