When L. was two we signed him up for a parent/child art class at the local community center. It was on Wednesday mornings and Scott usually took him. It was the one type of class that L. actually participated in. We'd taken him to parent/child music classes before and he would squirm his body away from the circle of kids and stretch out in the corner somewhere; or he'd wander off and examine the furniture. But he loved the art class. Because he could focus on something tactile he could block out the extra "noise"--the bodies, the sounds, the chaos of the other kids.
One morning I had the chance to go with L. and the teacher dumped a huge batch of homemade play dough onto the center of the art table. She had several different colors, and some plain white play dough with glittery sprinkles mixed in. L. loved play dough. We sat together and made all sorts of things--letters, boats, animals. I watched his strong little fingers poke and knead, and I fell in love for the millionth time with the ways he pooched his cheeks out in concentration while he worked, with the curve of his eyelashes, with his serious eyes. At the end of the class the teacher gave us each a card with the recipe for the dough--she called it "Tinker Dough" and, indeed, it had seemed a magical creation to us. I've made it more times that I can remember; it was by far for awhile one of L.'s favorite things for us to do together. Some days he'd point to the stove and say "Dough? Dough?"
Alas for T. I haven't made it nearly as much with her--such is the lot of the second child. But as we prepared for our week at the beach I sat down and thought about what I could bring along to keep her occupied for the requisite quiet times or possible rainy days we might encounter. A few days before I'd been leafing through my recipe collection and the much loved, stained, well-used recipe card for "Tinker Dough" fell out.
Five minutes later we had a pile of warm, squishy, magical-seeming dough to knead and transform into whatever shapes we desired. As we sat at the kitchen table together I watched her work and fell in love again for the millionth time with the curve of her lashes, the freckles splashed across her nose, her sweet voice, and her busy fingers--strong and happy at all that she does.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar (in the spice section of your store)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon food coloring (gel kind works best)
1. Combine flour, salt, and cream of tartar in saucepan
2. Mix liquids and gradually stir into dry ingredients
3. When mixture is smooth, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until ball forms.
4. Remove from heat and knead on wax paper until it's cooled and soft.
When you're done inventing, store in a ziploc bag (we took our batch with us to the beach)!