DIY Dough: It Smells Like Fall In Here

I’ve been making my own play dough for years now. I’m not a fan of the commercially marketed brand we are all familiar with. Quite frankly, it smells weird and since the company that creates it won’t list its exact ingredients, it makes me leery. So…I make my own for use at Salt Meadow Academy.

Lots of dough recipes call for using Cream of Tarter. If you’re anything like me, I had never ever used Cream of Tarter for baking before. I had no clue what it was. So I did my research, and decided that my play dough will never contain Cream of Tarter. Cream of Tarter quite often contains aluminum. No thanks! Since it’s primary role in the dough is to add an acid, I use lemon juice instead, and it works perfectly!


1 1/4 cups all purpose white flour
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup salt (I use fine sea salt with no issues)
3 teaspoons of lemon juice
2 tablespoons (approximately) of oil (extra virgin olive oil and canola have both worked fine for me)

Lots of recipes call for the use of food coloring, I typically don’t use it unless I have a natural coloring on hand.

1. Mix the flour and the salt together in a small pan.
2. Stir in the water slowly over low heat.(I advise against using a whisk, the dough gets stuck! We use a rubber scraper)
3. Add the oil and the lemon.
4. Stir well to mix in all of the loose dry ingredients.
5. Once the dough forms (it happens really fast) let the mixture cool slightly before handling.
6. If the dough ball is still a bit sticky add a little more flour.
7. Knead the dough until all the stickiness is gone.

We keep ours fresh by keeping it in screw top mason jars.

When we made it today, we split the dough in half, we scented half of it by mixing in ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and cloves! We added some vanilla to the other. You can use any combination of spices or even essential oils that you have on hand. If you are using the essential oils, you’ll likely need to add more flour to balance out the addition of a wet ingredient. We also LOVE to use herbs from the garden, especially sage, basil, thyme, mint and lavender!

Our entire classroom smelled delicious. The kids couldn’t wait to get their hands into the dough. We find this dough is very smooth and user friendly.

Cinnamon play dough! We poked it!

Cinnamon play dough! We poked it!


We pushed loose parts into it!


We created patterns!


We made a birthday cake!


It was perfect for rolling ribbon spools across to make a road.


Arms and legs were rolled to create a “snow man”.


It was all bunched up to start again!

Does anyone create their own dough? What do you scent or color yours with?


Natural Painting: The Process and the Product

A simple provocation of some natural paintbrushes, paints and a blank canvas were set up on the table to greet us from our morning bus stop return.

naturepaint1There was lavender, some different ornamental grasses and even some leaves from the peony in our yard.

Our 4 year old, “S” dove right in and began to create. She talked out loud, narrating as she navigated the process.

Painting with the lavender paint brush.

Painting with the lavender paint brush.

S: “The orange looks like wind. Purple is the leaves blowing in wind.”

Painting with the peony leaves.

Painting with the peony leaves.

She made observations about the brushes created from the ornamental grasses.

S: “If you shake it, all the seeds come off. This grass was long and got in 3 different colors. It made the sun.”

Creating the sun with the ornamental grass paint brush.

Creating the sun with the ornamental grass paint brush.

She also made observations about smell.

S: “This lavender smells so good! [brings it up to her nose to smell it] When it has paint on it I smell a little bit of lavender but more paint smell. [picks some of the dried flowers off of the lavender sprigs] I’m picking these off so they stick to my wet paint so my painting smells good.”

She continued to narrate her creation as it evolved.

S: “This is the grass and I’m making flowers too. The grass with the red on it makes the best paint brush because it looks like a tree.”

Painting with ornamental grasses.

Painting with ornamental grasses.

The project takes a turn at this point and S decides that mixing colors with her fingers is the next experiment. She looked to me for approval and of course received a YES! She mixes oranges and blue.

S: “Whoa! BROWN!”

S created brown with her fingers by mixing orange and blue paints.

S created brown with her fingers by mixing orange and blue paints.

S: “What do purple and orange make?

Me: “I’m not sure. What do you think?”

S then mixes purple, orange and yellow together on her finger and swirls them onto her canvas.

S: “WHAT?! More BROWN! My paper looks like a rainbow! [dabs her finger into all of the paints one at a time, layering the colors] My finger looks like a rainbow!

Finger painting and mixing colors.

Finger painting and mixing colors.

S decides that using the natural brushes is appropriate again and goes back to using one of the longer ornamental grass brushes.

S: “I’m adding greeen again. It makes cool swirl lines.”

She tries another painting technique that she hadn’t yet tried and begins to dab the grass brush instead of swirling it.

Things start to get even more interesting when S decides to fold the paper plate palette in half to mix all of the colors. Giggles begin and she dredges the grass and the lavender into all of the colors.

S: [giggling] “Whoa, this is neat!”

Creating swirls and dabs and painting with all of the colors from the mixed up palette.

Creating swirls and dabs and painting with all of the colors from the mixed up palette.

After 48 minutes, she declares that her canvas is finished! She pushes away from the table to look at her work!

What do you think?!

The finished canvas!

The finished canvas!

Twisted Strands™: Certificate of Participation

We have decided to create a Certificate of Participation to each school, program, class or family that sends us a ribbon or string for our tree! The first batch is ready for mailing! If you send us a letter, we will do our best to send a response as well!

Certificate of Participation

Certificate of Participation

To participate in The Twisted Strands™ Project mail to:

Twisted Strands™ Project

Salt Meadow Academy

15 Bluff Avenue

Clinton, CT 06413

Twisted Strands™: Voyagers’ Community School

We were greeted by a lone envelope in the mail today. It was from Voyagers’ Community School in Farmingdale, NJ!

Voyagers' Community School in Trenton, NJ

Voyagers’ Community School in Trenton, NJ

Their students wrote us a lovely note on a card with the motto “Changing the World”! Such a wonderful mantra. We are all changing the world in some way, aren’t we?

“Changing the World”, motto of Voyagers’ Community School in Farmingdale, NJ.

Our children started to reflect in what ways “we” at Salt Meadow Academy are changing the world.

We are bringing people together with our strings.

We work hard to do projects that we are interested in and that makes us happy.

We are meeting kids from far away and they are just kids like us, even though we don’t go to the same school.

I think the overall consensus of the students today was that regardless of where we come from and our backgrounds, we are all important, we all work hard and the underlying theme of this entire project, “We are ALL connected.”

A note from new connections.

A note from new connections.

Enclosed in their envelope was a purple ribbon. This was the FIRST purple ribbon that we’ve received and completely unique, just like ALL of us. The children happily added it to the branches, taking turns weaving through other strands.

A purple ribbon from our friends at Voyagers' Community School in NJ.

A purple ribbon from our friends at Voyagers’ Community School in NJ.

The children wondered what made this group of children choose a purple ribbon. Our youngest children thought simply because it was pretty. Our oldest child thought that the color purple may have a special meaning, so we decided to Google the color purple. We learned that purple is known as the color of imagination. It is also said that purple is a peaceful color. What do you think?

Thank you for your contribution to Twisted Strands™! Keep an eye out in the mail for something special from us!

If you are interested in participating in Twisted Strands™, please mail a ribbon or string to:
Twisted Strands™ Project
Salt Meadow Academy
15 Bluff Avenue
Clinton, CT 06413 USA

Dawns Early Light

Fall has arrived in New England. While outside this morning we gathered some early fallen leaves. The colors aren’t as vibrant yet but I’m sure they’ll be brighter when we return from our October break (we are away Oct 6-10th).
While collecting our leaves the children were holding them up in the sunlight to see the colors more clearly. We decided that we would hang them in our classroom window to enjoy them throughout the day.
First, we lay them out to dry on some paper towels.
Once they were dry, we pressed them between wax paper sheets. The children carefully arranged the leaves into a design of their choosing. Shiny sides go in the middle of course so that the iron melts the wax to the leaves and they stick together. We used towels to keep the paper from sticking to the iron. The children guessed that the iron would change the color of the leaves. They remarked that they could smell the leaves once the hot iron had been on them.
We peeled back the towel to reveal our pictures.

We hung them in our front windows to enjoy!
Happy fall!!



Twisted Strands™: Buckle My Shoe in New York, New York

We received an envelope this afternoon from Buckle My Shoe, a Reggio-inspired preschool in New York, New York! Their 2A class (12 young 2 year olds) and their teacher ,Rachel, sent us a bunch of beautiful ribbons to create with. Each ribbon was unique (just like us!).

The children at Salt Meadow Academy decided that we use ALL of them so we tied them all together because “they all came from the same school”. We measured the ribbons tied together and they were over 7 feet long! Fabulous!!

We chose a dark blue pin to mark your location on our map. Our children LOVE your school name and began to recite a nursery rhyme upon hearing it. 🙂

The children shared some beautiful drawings with us, which we are happy to hang up in our classroom.

A few of our children have traveled to New York with their families so they were very happy to find a connection to your class and school.

Thank you for your participation in Twisted Strands™. Watch your mailbox, we’ll be sending you something soon!

Beautiful ribbons from Buckle My Shoe in New York, NY.

Beautiful ribbons from Buckle My Shoe in New York, NY.

Wonderful drawings from the 2A class and their teacher Rachel from Buckle My Shoe in NY, NY.

Wonderful drawings from the 2A class and their teacher Rachel from Buckle My Shoe in NY, NY.

If you are interested in participating in the Twisted Strands™ Project, please mail your ribbon or string to:
Twisted Strands™ Project
Salt Meadow Academy
15 Bluff Avenue
Clinton, CT 06413 USA

Twisted Strands™: The 1st Ribbon Has Arrived!!

The mail came! There’s a package! I think it’s for us! Is it a string? Who’s it from? Can we open it? Whoa, look at this one! How’d they get the crystals to stick on? It looks like they painted it! It’s like a rainbow!

Those are only SOME of the reactions upon opening our envelope!

I have hardly been able to contain the children’s excitement after receiving so many wonderful emails from programs confirming participation in our project. They have been excitedly waiting for the mail lady every day and today they finally received what they were looking for!

Our very FIRST “Twisted Strand™” arrived from Hopmeadow Nursery School in Simsbury, CT! They wrote us an amazing letter. Their children created a magnificent ribbon! They painted and decorated them with jewels. We learned that there are ten children in their Pre-K class and that their school has 62 children total. Each student passed along a special message in their letter. We can’t wait to write back and tell them more about our school.

Thank you very much for your contribution to our project! We are ALL connected!


A letter from new friends!

The children were happy to receive a

The children were happy to receive a “Twisted Strand” from such a close neighbor!

Their ribbon was long and colorful!

Their ribbon was long and colorful!

A very special 1st ribbon!

A very special 1st ribbon!

Some of the details on the 1st ribbon.

Some of the details on the 1st ribbon.

To participate in the Twisted Strands™ project, please mail your ribbon/string and a message to our children at :
Twisted Strands™ Project
Salt Meadow Academy
15 Bluff Avenue
Clinton, CT 06413

Lights, Camera, Action

How neat is this? Our kids (ages 5 & 7) were pretending to host a movie in front of our fish tank! What does this look like to you!?




They absolutely DID create a projector from loose parts in the classroom!! Funny thing is that I don’t think any of them have ever seen an actual movie projector. So VERY cool!!

We made a movie thing!the fish tank is the screen. The circles in the front are where the movie goes through.

Cue singing of their movie theme song. Time to head to the library and pick up books about movie making!

Twisted Strands™: We’ve Gone Global!

Our children and myself are so incredibly humbled that our simple idea of “Twisted Strands™” has gone global! The students at Salt Meadow Academy are anxiously awaiting the first ribbons and strings to arrive.

If you would like to contribute a string or a ribbon to our project, our students suggest that they be between 12″ and 36″ long because “they are best for wrapping in the branches”. Please feel free to include a note to our students about who you are and where you are from!

Our mailing address is:

Salt Meadow Academy

15 Bluff Avenue

Clinton, Connecticut USA 06413

Thank you for your support!

Twisted Strands™: Collaborative Project Invitation!


Our students came up with a wonderful idea today and I’d like to share it with you all and ask for some help in making it happen!

Salt Meadow Academy is a small Reggio inspired preschool and child care located in Clinton, CT USA. We have started a collaborative project with our students called “Twisted Strands™”. You can read more about it on our blog ( .

Our students thought it would be a lovely idea to have other Reggio schools/programs and families send us some ribbons to add to our string tree, because, as our students noted today, we are ALL connected. We would label each string with your program/family name and location and add a pin to a world map!

If your school/program or anyone else for that matter would like to send us a ribbon to add to our tree, please email me at for more information! Feel free to share this with anyone that may be interested! Our kids are very excited and are hoping to get some strings and notes from programs/families soon from around the world!

We have had such an out pouring of support our address is as follows:
Salt Meadow Academy
15 Bluff Avenue
Clinton, CT USA 06413

Please make sure to send a note for the kids as well as your location!