The other day, I found myself with a rare hour where I wasn’t on a deadline, the house was relatively clean and I didn’t have a laundry monster waiting for me to slay him in the basement. Typically when this happens I bribe the kids with Goldfish and a DVD and I settle in for some Facebook stalking. But not on this day. Call it mommy guilt, call it boredom, call it wanting to avoid the online Jamberry party being thrown by my old sorority sister– I decided to try and do something crafty with my toddlers instead.
My track record with Pinterest is spotty at best, so I was well aware that things could go South quickly, but I found a recipe for edible play dough from Live Play And Learn that sounded promising. It was quick to make, appeared to have minimal mess, and the little girl playing in the pictures seemed to be having a blast. With only three ingredients I thought there was no possible way I could screw this up. Turns out I was wrong.
I laid out an old cloth so the kids wouldn’t make a mess with all the tactile learning I was positive they were about to embark on and grabbed a mixing bowl. I measured the flour and the oatmeal carefully and was super impressed at myself for not spilling too much of it on the counters. This was going to be good, I could tell. The recipe called for food coloring, but I decided against it because I had a brief moment when I became overly ambitchous and thought it was a bad idea to have the kids sticking their hands in “artificial dyes.” Then my smug self added the water and headed out to the floor.
While the instructions claim her toddler “loved poking her fingers in it,” my boys where not about this life. They constantly tag team me in an effort to get their hands in the toilet bowl or the coveted litter box, but when I actually handed them a bowl of water and sand-like material to play with, they turned up their boogery little noses. My voice slowly transitioning from Mary Poppins to The Joker, I insisted this was going to be fun, ultimately bribing them with wooden spoons to get them to stay put.
The mental image I had of the three of us mixing this dough together turned into me doing all the work while they hit each other over the head with spoons and I tried to stop them without getting us all covered in sticky oat glue. Still, I was hopeful that once the dough was actually formed, they’d play with it and I’d get my triumphant moment as the Mom Who Did A Craft, even if it was only this one time.
A quick perusal of mom blogs had informed me that when you make play dough and give your kids things to mush it with the expectation that they will actually play with said dough, you’re not supposed to call it that. You have to call it an “invitation to play” so that your child feels in charge of the situation. Funny, I thought the title “Mommy” meant I was in charge, but hey, when in Rome.
I set up the “invitation” meaning I dumped some cookie cutters and a potato masher on the floor and broke the dough two roughly equal chunks. Apparently they weren’t quite equal enough, as I was loudly and enthusiastically encouraged to try again. My second attempt was deemed adequate and I sat back, excited to see them delight in the play dough.
Maybe the lack of handwritten invitation offended them, but for whatever reason, my kids were having none of it. Penny pincher that I am, I was determined for them to play with it, because oatmeal doesn’t grow on trees. As they do when I’m trying to eat or pee, I thought if they saw me playing with it, they’d want to copy me. I tried making people out of the dough, then shapes, and then when that didn’t work, I resorted to pathetic attempts at animals: A cat. A giraffe. A mouse. A snake.