finnian and lachlan's studio
the rainbow rug

play dough sculpting

Finn keeps the new art area bustling with activity. Sculpting with play dough was the first art experience that I put on the shelf, knowing that, if we first made the play dough together in the kitchen (I used this recipe, and it's stayed good for three weeks now) then he would be gung-ho to play with it. Here he is after a sculpting session, putting everything away.

And just to disabuse you of the (albeit hilarious) notion that the fairy singing in the background is Patrick, we were listening to Joanna Newsom, an innovative musician and acquaintance of mine from high school.

Finn is free to get out the sculpting kit at any time. Most of the time he puts it away without any reminders, as that was how I presented the activity to him - the putting away was just as interesting as the playing itself. I showed him how to do it a few times, then he took over, with varying degrees of success. What you see in the video is the result of a bit of practice on his part, and a lot of holding back from unnecessary intervention on my part. I think that's pretty much the key - don't intervene unless there is noticeable frustration on the child's part. I blogged a bit about my thoughts on being okay with your child's mistakes here. There are a lot of moments in this video where we adults might be tempted to intervene, which would mean that Finn wouldn't have had the opportunity to troubleshoot or explore on his own. It takes a while, and the road to success is often circuitous, but ultimately standing back and observing (and respecting) a toddler's own process is what allows the child to learn directly from his own experiences.  

Okay, enough Montessori jibber jabber. For those of you interested in setting up your own play dough sculpting kit, here's what you'll need:

- A homemade playdough recipe. The one I used is here, there are also some great versions in First Art , and Jean has her own suggestions for jazzing it up here.

- An air-tight container that is easily opened and closed by a toddler. I used a Good Grips pop container. I've found them to be much easier for little hands to use correctly than a typical tupperware container. We also keep our cat food in one of these and Finn enjoys his daily task of feeding the cats all by himself.

- A storage container for the sculpting tools. Our little "suitcase" was used as an innovative gift wrapping for one of Finn's baby shower gifts, but I recently saw something very similar at Michael's. Again, the key is that it's easily handled by a toddler.

play dough sculpting kit

- Sculpting tools. I was very inspired by this article in the Winter issue of Rhythm of the Home. I scrounged around for tools in my own house, then went to a thrift store to see what I could find. As it turns out, Finn's favorite sculpting tools have been a butter knife, a pattern tracing wheel, and some small sticks that I found in my backyard. He also uses the handmade cork stamps.

- A canvas mat. I quickly sewed mine up from a scrap of canvas fabric that I had on hand. I backed it with the left over non-skid rubber rug pad that I used under the Rainbow Rug.

Happy Play-doughing!