I'm sure we've all either heard it or said it: "Don't play with your food." I'm usually discouraging a budding mashed-potato sculptor during dinner. Food is for eating.
This is not a novel concept.
But what about kids using food in art? It's a topic that lots of people are talking about, thanks to the rather spectacular headline (and a TV news item) "Playdough use offends Maori" (though it was later retitled as "Playdough controversial amongst Maori").
The predictable reaction occurred in the comments, mostly from people reacting to only the headline. Political correctness gone mad! How dare Maori ban playdough! Stop being so precious!
But discussion of food in play, particularly at early childhood centres, is not a novel topic. Two seconds of googling found "Should Food Be Used as Learning Materials?". A glance at the references shows sources back to 1985.
As a Playcentre parent, I'm well aware that we have policies on using food in play. There are no macaroni collages or potato prints. Food is food (and we do plenty of baking), play materials are play material. It's been that way for at least 10 years.
But we make playdough with flour. It's a significant part of our Playcentre experience, particularly for my girl twin, Vieve. At nearly three, she loves sculpting people. The little figure in the picture above was described as "This mine man! He so happy! He really happy!"
She often makes one figure to represent herself, and another for her twin, before demanding that I put their initials on them. I laughed and laughed the day she then took a rolling pin to "Finn". Vieve narrated, "Finny get rolled. He have a long hair! No... Mummy have long hair. Make a M for Mummy?"
How does Playcentre justify the use of flour in playdough? I've had the reasoning explained to me as you can't eat flour on its own; it's not an edible food as is. Playcentres keep separate flour for baking and playdough, and playdough flour is often donated by supermarkets, in ripped bags.
These guidelines were established through a process of discussion and consensus. A similar process will have occurred at the Maori centres who have chosen not to use playdough. They have decided that, within their particular environment, it's not appropriate. If parents disagree, they can go elsewhere. They can choose to do that.
As you can choose to make playdough with your kids if you want to.
This is my simplest, quickest recipe. There are lots of other variations, which give slightly different textures. A tablespoon of cream of tartar is a common addition.
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons oil
a few drops food colouring
1 cup boiling water
Put the ingredients in a large bowl, in the order specified. Stir it until it all mixes, forms a ball, and is cool enough to handle. Knead it with floured hands until well mixed and smooth.
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