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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Raise Your Play IQ – Throw that recipe away! The power of experimentation


by Alix Tonsgard

If you Google homemade play dough, you will find hundreds of recipes. In my early years as a preschool teacher, I tried many of them in my classroom. The children would help measure one cup of this and one teaspoon of that, we would talk about the properties of the ingredients and how they changed throughout the process, and finally we would play.  

Then one day, when the children were requesting my standard, old faithful, plain dough, I couldn’t find my recipe. I had all of the ingredients and having made it countless times, I decided we should just go for it. We started with our base, a good amount of flour. Next we added a splash of oil and water. We dug our hands in and started kneading.  

As we kneaded, we talked about what it felt like – did it feel the way it should? It didn’t, so we started adding a dash of this and that. Sometimes it was too sticky, sometimes it was too dry, until finally it was just right. This might seem like a group of children mucking about, which on the surface level it was, but if you think more deeply about all of the steps of this process, you begin to see that it was much more.  

Throwing out the recipe prompts children in a safe environment to experiment, to problem solve, to create and test a hypothesis, to think critically about why something didn’t work and what approach might be better. This is higher level critical thinking at its finest. 

This cannot be stimulated with a worksheet or an activity that requires following exact step-by-step instructions. This is what authentic learning is. This is how objects like iPhones are created. The ability to be curious, confident, and persistent in playing with ideas is the greatest gift you can give a child, and it is what we strive to achieve in everything that we do here at the Museum.

Alix Tonsgard is an early learning specialist at the DuPage Children’s Museum.

Editor’s Note / Hey, Adults! The DuPage Children’s Museum will host After-Hours Event Just For Grown-Ups, Happier Hour: Friendsgiving. The evening event for the 21-plus crowd will be held from 7-10PM on Sat., Nov. 23. Leave “adulting” at the the big red door, then enter to sip, savor, shop, & PLAY at the Museum.

Let your inner child loose and enjoy time with your friends being a kid again (without all the kids). Everything is planned – all you need to do is gather your friends for a night of play and to be curious!   

The DuPage Children’s Museum is located at 301 N. Washington Street.

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DuPage Children's Museum
DuPage Children's Museumhttp://dupagechildrens.org/
The DuPage Children’s Museum’s mission is to stimulate curiosity, creativity, thinking and problem solving in young children through self-directed, open-ended experiences; integration of the arts, science and math; the child-adult learning partnership.

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