Experimenting with Cloud Dough

Discovery play is an important part of our juniors school life.

Along with play in the classroom, once a week all the junior classes get together for two hours in the morning to explore, play, experiment and get to know each other.

The focus for us as teachers is developing our kiddo's oral language, both in vocabulary and confidence in speaking.  We are also teaching them how to play together, co-operate, share, and allow others to join in (skills that are sorely missing at the beginning of the year).

There is a mix of dress up, Lego's, building blocks, sandpit and toys, water, painting, balls, skipping ropes etc every week.  We as teachers then add activities to the mix that we guide the children with and really encourage the language and conversation.

We follow a process of making four/five comments (which helps supply language) before we are allowed to ask questions.  Let me tell you, if you have never tried to do this, it is really hard to do.  You have to resist every instinct to jump in and ask 20 questions left right and center, and it takes a lot of will power not too.

The theory behind it is that if we ask nothing but questions children can shut down as often they have thought about what it is you are asking of them e.g. Child 'a' comes to you with a rocket they have built and you ask "Where's your rocket flying to?" they don't know, they just built a rocket and ran to show it to you, they haven't come up with an imagination story yet.
However if we say "Wow that is such a neat rocket, I like all the colors you have used, that would be so much fun to fly to outer space with, maybe you would see some aliens, or maybe a shooting star"  and then you ask a question, it's given them access to language and you have shown a true interest and engaged with the child and the activity.

As I said it is hard to do, but we are nearly a year in now and we are all getting better at it and have seen amazing growth with our students.

Today I introduced Cloud Dough!

I had a lot of volunteers after I said I was going to do an experiment with flour and oil and see what I could make.  I think it was the word experiment that got them.

To be able to help they all had to show me 8 on their fingers (hey if you can get some maths in, you get some maths in).

I explained how first we had to measure 8 cups of flour out. We talked about how they can't be piled high with flour or partly empty and how we have to flatten the top so it's nice and even.

One by one they lined up to put their hand in the flour bag and filled their cup up, there was no fighting or pushing, they just happily handed their cup to the next person.  16 cups of flour later they had all had a turn of measuring out the flour and were all ready fascinated by the feel of the flour.

I then added the food coloring - I would note that because the next ingredient is oil the food coloring didn't mix in as well as I wanted.  While it did change the color a bit, it tended to be in little bits, so I don't know if I would do it again in the future.

Next came the oil.  The recipe for baby oil, however you could easily use any other oil, I would just be aware of peanut oil's, coconut oil would be amazing and the smell would be heavenly.  I decided that since it was the first time making cloud dough and I really really didn't want to risk it being a failure, that I would follow the recipe and do the baby oil.    However now that I have made it, I would love to do it with coconut oil!

I must admit I made a big production of pouring the oil into the cup, I wasn't quite game to let 5/6 year olds loose with the oil so I had to keep them entertained and hooked.

As soon as I poured the oil in, all hands were in mixing and stirring to see what happened.  One by one I added more oil and more flour, the hands reached up grabbing at it all and mixing it in.  They had such a blast that even if nothing else happened they would have been happy.

Slowly they noticed how it was changing, while it was still so softy and silky (like a cloud) they could clump it together like wet sand.  I threw in washed out peach cups and they went for it, building, creating and having fun.  The best part is they all smelt so good afterwards and everyone's hands were lovely and soft.

I made a huge batch of the cloud dough but the best part is that it keeps, so at the end of the session I just transferred it into a couple of large containers and I will be able to bring it out again on another discovery.

Cloud Dough

8 cups of plain flour

1 cup of baby oil (or any oil of your choice)

Mix well, add containers and play away.

I made 5 times the recipe to get this much cloud dough.

Remember this does have oil so don't do this on or near your carpet as it may stain

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