I was setting up my laptop at a conference recently listening to two lovely ladies on the front row discussing me, which is always interesting! The conversation went like this…
Who is he?
You, know the ABC bloke.
No, Mr. ABC
Is that his real name? That’s not his real name. He has made that up to get more work in schools! [pause] What’s he wearing by the way?!
Actually, I think they call him Dr. ABC.
(that bit really made me chuckle!)
You do know him!
I don’t. I’ve never heard of him.
You do! The Dough Gym bloke.
Oh! Is that him? I never would have guessed looking at him!
Too funny! That’s me…Dr. ABC the Dough Gym bloke with the made up name (to get more work in schools)!
But, if I am going to be recognised for anything, I am more than happy for it to be Dough Gym as it is something that I am so passionate about. Those of you who know me will also know how much importance I place on high level independence for all children whether that be self registration, self service paint or making your own toast in snack!
So, when it comes to a self service dough area, that is two of my passions happening at the same time!
The first time I did this was in Middlefield Nursery in Speke, Liverpool about 5 years ago. With that age group of children it was always going to be messy to start with. But, once they got the hang of it, the mess factor was significantly decreased. Since then I have also improved some of the basic equipment making things a lot easier!
This is a Self Service Dough Area
The essential items are:
- A dry food dispenser – a basic one like this will cost you around £25
(You can usually find them on Ebay, Amazon and Betterware. Search for cereal dispenser as well as dry food dispenser. Catering suppliers also stock them. Small word of warning…the REALLY cheap ones don’t have a tight seal around the opening and when you turn the handle you get an avalanche!
If you haven’t got a food dispenser you can always just measure with cups from a container. This is equally as effective, but increases the potential for spillage!)
- A water container with a tap – this is a vintage copper urn that I was using to set up this charity shop and car boot water play space.
usually I just use a plastic camping jerry can like this.
It will cost you around £8.
- Colour and scent – I use salt and vinegar dispensers which you can get for as little as 25p each! For colour, you can use traditional food colouring but I tend to use liquid water colour as it gives you a far more vivid colour and it is washable!
- Containers – These can be any that you have got to hand. For the set up in the picture I was thinking about different textures in the setting. We had used a lot of wood, tin and brass so I thought enamel might be a nice touch.
- Utensils – You need things to mix with and roll with – the usual stuff!
What to do
- Fill one side of your dispenser with salt
- Fill one side of your dispenser with flour
- Fill your jerry can with cold water
The dough recipe that I use is a very basic 2 cups of flour, 1cup of salt and 1 cup of water. It is not an exact science! We are letting the children experience a process, so we want them to think about how to make their dough wetter or dryer depending on the consistency they end up with.
The children (not the adults) turn the handle on the flour twice and then the handle on the salt once. (One turn is about one cup (ish)).
They then fill their water container to a given mark.
Add their scent and colour
Then you can play with your dough!
Because it is a simple dough mix and doesn’t include anything like Cream of Tartar or Glycerine it doesn’t last for ages, but will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.
Of course, there will be mess. But you can’t really teach ‘process’ without a bit of mess. To be honest, there is not much you do in Early Years without a bit of mess! Mess is where invention, creativity, thinking and exploring starts – so let’s embrace the mess!
Go on, have a go! You know you want to!