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Remember how my kids had the chicken pox last October, one right after another? Having them home for such a long time without being able to go out got old pretty quickly. Thank goodness for homemade Play Doh!
To pizzazz up the usual Play Doh experience, I decided to make some picture mats for the kids to use with it. These simple laminated images can be colored in by squishing smaller pieces of colored Play Doh into the spaces. Such a simple idea was loads of fun for the kids.
Not much of an artist? No worries… even the most artistically-deficient people can handle these with one of my favorite little drawing tricks. Here’s how!
First of all, search the internet for simple black and white clip art. Try searching for “coloring pages” or “classroom art.” I got most of my images from the “black and white” category on classroomclipart.com. Save the images to your computer. Fold a sheet of white A4 paper in half. I found this to be a good size, but use whatever you happen to have. Open up one image at a time and enlarge it until it fits nicely inside the one half. You can easily see the image through the paper if you hold it right up against the screen. Trace the image with a pencil, only using the parts of the image you want. In this case I left out the evil flower face and the watermark. This is a little trick that I like to use when I freezer paper stencil, too.
When you’ve finished tracing, go over your pencil lines with a thick black marker, then erase any pencil markings that are still visible. Another alternative is to Photoshop each image, erasing any parts that you don’t want, and then printing them out two on each page, but I found it to be easier to just do it this way.
We want our mats to be a little more sturdy, so break out your collection of cereal boxes, which are going to become the backing of our pictures.
Cut down the fold of your sheets of paper with the pictures. Open up the box so that it lies flat and glue each picture onto one of the large box panels. Initially I glued the images onto the colored size of the box, but then I realized that you could see the graphics through the white paper, which I found to be ugly/visually disturbing, so I glued the rest onto the box insides and left the cereal graphics visible on the back. I also found a glue stick to give uneven results (see the flower above) while spray adhesive worked perfectly (see the airplane above).
Now cut along the edges of each picture. A paper cutter makes this job quick and perfectly straight, but if you don’t have one just use scissors.
Now we need to laminate the pictures so that they can be used over and over. If you have a laminator, just whip them right through it. I used a roll of clear contact paper (the same I used for our personalizable portraits). Place the images on the adhesive side of the plastic and flatten them out from the top, pushing them onto the adhesive. Then fold them over so that the front is facing downwards onto the adhesive.
Use a bone folder or your fingers to flatten out any air bubbles and to press the plastic together where there is no paper.
When you’ve finished laminating the fronts and backs of all the images, trim the plastic around them, leaving a little border like a frame around the paper so as to protect it better. Again, use a paper cutter if you have one. Here are all my finished picture mats. You can see that some are very simple, like the heart and star, while others are more complex.
Here comes the real fun! Show them to your children and see how excited they are to look through the pictures to choose one.
You might want to show them how to break off smaller pieces of Play Doh to fit inside the spaces. They will quickly understand and take over.
At first my then-2 1/2-year-old boy made the effort to fit different colors into the shapes.
Then he started experimenting with piecing together lots of bits of the same color to cover the entire image.
And finally experimented with squashing blobs one on top of another over the picture. That must have been quite pleasant sensorially, squishing the Play Doh like that!
The most important part, though, is that the kids had a great time playing and using the material in a totally different way than usual, not to mention the fact that they were momentarily distracted from the uncomfort of the chicken pox. When they were done, the pictures got stored away for the next time. I just love activities like this that can be used over and over! And how do your children like to use Play Doh?