The children played their happy, little hearts out with their yellow play dough at our yellow birthday party. But, the party is over, and the play dough has become yesterday's toy. So, I thought I could recycle it into a reading/boredom buster activity, sort of inspired by Steve Cohen's Learn-to-Read Treasure Hunts, which I used with my older children, when they were first learning to read.
I started with an inexpensive Lego set, the kind that takes the kids about 5 minutes to put together, play with, and then forget. You could probably find an even less expensive, generic version. Or, better yet, pull Legos from your children's existing stash, along with instructions printed off the Lego site, to rebuild an old, demolished, Lego plane, or car.
I made a list of clues/directions. Actually, I made two lists. One, to be cut up an placed with the Lego pieces, and another, so I'd know where to hide each set of pieces. The clues were written with simple words, for my early readers.
I placed each clue, and a few of the Legos into separate, snack size, plastic bags.
Then, I wadded the bags up, as tiny as possible, and placed them into globs of play dough, using a tooth pick to number the top of each glob, so using the master list, I'd know where to hide them.
My intention was to bake the play dough globs, hardening them into "treasure stones", an idea I got from John and Danita Thomas, in one of their Kid Concoction books. Their ideas haven't always panned out so well for us, so I was worried as I placed the play dough into the oven. I wondered if, even at the lowest heat setting, the plastic bags would melt to the Legos, and ruin everything.
It was about that time I started wondering why I was ruining perfectly good play dough, anyway. After all, just because the children were bored with it right then, didn't mean they wouldn't want to play with it again tomorrow. I started thinking, maybe the "stones" didn't need to be hardened, to make the "treasure" fun to find. So, I quickly snatched them back out of the oven, and placed each "stone" into a separate Ziploc bag, and hid those.
My youngest three (ages 4-7) had an excellent time searching for, and discovering, the treasure.
They didn't even notice they were reading. Well...maybe they did notice, but they didn't care.
The hunt lasted for just over a half hour, and then they played for an additional half hour with the Lego set, and the play dough, which suddenly was fun again.
It's great to be a homeschooler.