Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fractions and Color Theory

It seems like every day someone asks if James is in preschool. I don't begrudge people asking me the question, since it seems he is the only 4 year old in America that isn't in preschool, but it does get tiresome sometimes. It gets tiresome because the conversation always leads to why he's not in preschool and then I have to explain that I'm going to home school. "Oh so you're doing school with him right now, right?"

Uh, not really. He's only 4. That isn't really true, but it is what I want to say sometimes when I'm feeling a tad annoyed at this line of questioning that I get. Often.

Of course we are doing school! And just what "schooling" do kids do in preschool anyway? Learn their letters? Check. Knew them when he was 18 months old. Learn colors. Ditto. Learn how to count. Ditto. James already knows how to skip, which I have been informed by my elementary school teacher friends, most kids don't even learn until 2nd or 3rd grade. (They teach skipping in school?) Someone actually asked me the other day how I knew how to teach the afore mentioned things to my kids. I was really blown away. Isn't it common sense? Don't you take your kid to the library and read him books? Don't you tell him the grass is green, his shirt is blue and the car is silver? Don't we teach our kids everyday, whether they are in preschool or not?

Yes we do.

On Friday, it felt like fall. It made me want to stay in the house and do something crafty with the boys. Unfortunately, they don't have a lot of stamina for crafty projects. Oh yes they love them, but they are not going to sit for an hour doing cross stitch or anything like that. I needed a craft that allowed for movement, action, and mess. Also, one that required very little sitting and waiting for things to dry So we made play dough.

I arranged all the ingredients on the counter, pushing aside the breakfast dishes, and we got to work. We doubled the recipe, so we learned that 1/2 a cup plus 1/2 a cup = 1 whole cup. Our play dough took one whole cup of salt. The boys loved measuring and pouring the flour, water and salt into the pot. They especially loved how gooey it looked after we poured the water in.

The boring part, James later informed me, was cooking the play dough, because only I could stir it and they just had to watch. "It's a good thing that didn't take too long then," I told him. "Well, it was still pretty long Mommy." (What did I tell you about the being still part of crafts)
The next part was really fun. We divided up the white play dough and using 4 bottles of food coloring, we colored our dough. We used a book we had just read about mixing colors, as well as the information Daddy had shared with us about how he mixes all his paints from 3 colors (a little confusing because we had 4, but we got through that). We created orange and tried to make purple, in addition to green, red, yellow and blue. James was a little disappointed with the blue. "It isn't dark, dark, dark, dark blue."

After kneading our dough, and mixing our colors, it was time to play! (Here in lies the genius of this craft. After we make it, they want to play with it, allowing me to clean up and do the breakfast dishes. Now that's my kind of craft) They cut and rolled and made me Christmas cookies. William tried a bite or 2, and said it was "lucky".

Ultimately, they decided to make their own color--rainbow.

That really is one of their favorite parts of play dough--mixing all the colors until you get black. Which, by the way is one of their favorite colors. Although black isn't really a color, just the absence of color. We discussed that as they mixed. It's almost as if, while making play dough, we were doing a school thing. In fact, I think the next time someone asks me what James is learning in preschool, I'll just tell them fractions and color theory.

P.S. This post is dedicated to my Mom, who made play dough with us lots of times when we were little. I loved it. Those memories, as well as lots of others, inspire me to create memories of my own with my kids. I love you, Mom. Thanks for teaching me how to be a good Mom.

PS again. Here's the recipe:
*Recipe should be doubled for more than 1 child.

Combine 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of salt, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar in a heavy pan over medium heat. Stir until the mixture thickens and when it comes together as a dough, remove from heat.
When cool enough to handle, add food coloring and knead the dough to mix in. Play!! (Hands will get covered in food coloring, so if your child is messaphobic, you might have to do this while he tells you what colors to use.)

1 comment:

Justin and Erin McDonald said...

hey there I have been gone for two weeks and nee to do some catching up I see! How cool you have three genius kids on your hands and here I am and I can't even spell genius?Justin just informed me that I was right WOW that is big for me well any way I love this one because I also used to make play dough with my mom and can't wait to do it with my kids! So that reminded of another "semi craft" when their crayons get old and worn down you can peel all the paper off them and put them all in a old cup cake pan and melt them in the oven then let them harden and voila new crayons! RAINBOW style! I always like to do that! Have fun!