Jan 10, 2016

WonderWorks: Blocks + Playdough

Sometimes you need to use a little sticky stuff.

Today's Topic: Exploring Mortar
building blocks of any kind
playdough (I used this recipe because I had the ingredients on hand, but I'd recommend a salt-based dough instead because this recipe doesn't keep for very long and dries out quickly)

 cover art The three little wolves and the big bad pig / Trivizas, Eugenios  
The inspiration for this class (or "what I thought kids might do"):
construction play

playdough construction

What the kids actually did: First, I set out just the blocks and challenged the kids to build the biggest structure that they could and then try to blow it down like the big bad pig in our story.

 (erm, the buildings were surprisingly stable, actually)
Next, I gave them a big chunk of homemade playdough to incorporate into their block play however they chose. (I use homemade because I had the ingredients already and because I like to be able to let parents know that it's all just food and so (barring allergies) it's safe to eat if the kids REALLY want to taste it.) There was some of this sort of building which I sort of expected:

And then there were slightly more creative interpretations like these:

 (there is a block in this playdough somewhere...)
 Look at the cool shape I made!
 I'm making a sandwich!
 Want a bite?
 I'm making my brother into a dinosaur!

 Lots and lots of layering....

 rolling pin action:
 Here's what a 6-year old sibling will do with the materials:
 lining things up!
 And doing some color sorting.  Hooray for all the STEM skills!
Hindsight Tip: I was concerned that the oil in the dough would damage my unfinished wooden blocks.  The painted ones wiped clean without any problem, but the unpainted ones weren't quite as easy to clean.  Just be aware of that as you decide which building materials to use.

 Variations to try: 
playdough and toothpicks

Related Apps: Little Builders by Fox & Sheep.  One of the scenarios has a bricklaying station and if you forget the add the mortar, the wind will blow down your wall!


  1. Thank you so much for posting how you thought your program would go and how it actually went. Too often I base my programs on how I "think" they should go and if they're not picture-perfect I deem them failures.

  2. Thanks! Sometimes when the kids deviate from my original ideas it does feel like I must have engineered something wrong in my plans, but usually, if I can take a deep breath and look objectively at what actually transpired, I love the results (or at least learn something from the process!).


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