Jun 24, 2009

Playdough train table

This has been in my sights for a few days, but it took me a couple of evenings to get around to collecting all the bits from around the house and making all the playdough for it.

I made seven batches of the playdough recipe that I have come to love deeply. Two greens, two blues, a yellow, a brown and a dark grey.
The idea was to make our own temporary train table on the kitchen table, using some cheap plastic tracks from Daiso and lots of random stuff like bits of lego we have and other toys and rocks and nonsense.
The store bought train tables are nice and all, but whoa are they expensive! and when the landscape is painted onto it already you don't even have that much flexibility with what you can create. So, I figured, we'd make our own with playdough for the landscape, then the kids can play with it until dinner time. After that we dismantle it and put all the playdough back in the airtight boxes and they can make another one that's just as unique another time, when the whim strikes.

The kids were five, four and two three year olds and boy did they do a fantastic job! I was amazed by how much team work they showed and how busy this activity kept them. It took about three hours for us to put it all together and at that point everyone was hungry and I served lunch outside (kitchen table was a bit um... occupied) then they came back in after eating to play more with it.
First we set up a basic figure eight track with some crossings so we could add roads later.
Then the kids set up a construction site with toy diggers, lego construction workers (that were mine when I was a kid) and random wooden bits of pretend building stuff. Then they worked on making a beach and ocean, with a rock and lighthouse to keep the one ship that we had safe. After that they moved on to creating a lake and a volcanic island on the other side of the table.
Here's the table with nearly all the playdough plastered on.
Finally, I broke out a few of the dry wall shims that we still have to cut up and make into roads (the kids wanted it to be both a car and train table, as well as the boat and later went and added a plane to the mix, although we never really squeezed in a runway. Maybe next time we can make an airport) You can see the drywall shim road pretty well in this pic...
They stuck glass nuggets onto the lake because they said it was frozen. Someone accidentally wrote off a car in the volcano, which made me giggle.Right at the end they decided that they needed a house, so made one out of some more of my childhood lego that my mum was awesome enough to save.Other random stuff we stuck in the playdough included a couple of tunnels for the trains, some lego flowers and trees, some rocks from the beach and some green craft pom poms for bushes. Here are probably too many pictures of the fun we had...
Our garden is distinctly lacking in the flora department, but if I had lots of flowers and foliage out there then I'd have got them to stick some real greenary in the feilds. One word of warning: If you attempt this with wooden train tracks I'd be prepared to have to scrub off the playdough afterwards. I once used playdough to hold a wooden train track bridge together and it stuck to it like boogers to a preschooler's tshirt. Not cool.

The lads went home later in the afternoon, already talking about the next play table we would make. I kinda knew this activity was going to go down well, but I really didn't expect the total emersion that the kids experienced with it. It was very cool to see!

If you have fewer kids, or don't fancy covering your entire table, then really, just have a go on a smaller scale. Just a couple of colours of playdough and some toy cars and animals would do a dandy job. I'll definately be doing this plenty in the winter months and seeing what variations we can come up with to keep it interesting. Dinosaur island is so on the cards!
Y'know, it's getting late and they are still playing with it, so dinner is going to be outside tonight. Good job the weather is with us!

15 comments:

LiEr said...

Why are we not neighbors? Why? Why? My kids would LOVE what your kids did (and their friends). What a very cool idea! We have wooden tracks. Blast. But oh, I'm mentally calculating now if it's worth the extra booger-work at the end. Do you think I could get away with regular plasticine? The frozen lake is my favorite, I think. Those are smart kids to think up stuff like that. I could go on forever. I need to get to bed. Good night and thank you for the inspiration!

Lisa said...

That is so impressive!

Anonymous said...

you are soooo creative, would love to come for a play (living in New Zealand it may be a bit of a long stretch), I love this idea and no, they are not too many photos, they are all great
thanks for sharing : )

Mariana

MaryAnne said...

This is such a wonderful idea! My daughter saw the pictures and said, "Oh wow! Can we make that? It looks like an especially great rainy day play date idea - and we've had a LOT of rainy days lately...

Madeline / alias Detective ThinkMore said...

Using playdough is such an excellent idea for a toy train table. I also thought it had to be painted. But this is far more clever because you get the kids involved at a level that they can really doing something.

One question: What happens when the playdough get hard? Does it crumble? Is there a way to prevent it from getting hard?

Thanks again for the great idea.

Kitten Muffin said...

LiEr, I wish we were neighbours too! You'd have to put up with me picking your brains for sewing skills though! I reckon plasticine would maybe be less of a pain to get off wooden tracks than playdough, but I'm not sure, and you'd need a fair amount of it. We've only ever got a little handful of the rose art plasticine around for the kids to model with, which wouldn't be enough. You could lay down a tin foil bedding for the track to minimize how much it comes into contact with the playdough?

Madeline, we had this table out being built and used from 10 am to 9pm and when I packed it all away (took about 25 minutes) the playdough was still easily reusable. I just separated out the colours again (with one small pile of mixed colour) and kneaded them before they went back in the containers, so that any slightly dry bits were smoothed back in and rehydrated by the rest of the dough. There weren't any proparly hard bits.

We've got two little nesting coffee tables and I think the next playdough plan is going to be to make one a moon landscape and one an earth, then the kids can launch rockets between the two and play space travel with aliens and astronauts.

Nicole said...

Incredible awesomeness!

Anonymous said...

Could you tell me what kind of food coloring you used for this? I have the regular drops in 4 colors and the gel that comes in more colors. Wondering how you got brown and black and the lovely shades.

Thanks!
Carol

Kitten Muffin said...

I just used the packs of Safeway food colouring. They come four colours in the little box. I got a regular pack that has blue, green, yellow and red, and I got one of the neon sets too. The bright blue and the lime green are from that. The brown was made by putting a few of each colour in until it looked right (very scientific!) and the grey is actually dark purple. I used the neon purple and added blue and yellow until it made greyish-purple that would do for tarmac colour. The yellow was just yellow and the light blue was only a few drops of the regular blue. If you want your kitchen to smell loverlie while you play with this, then just put a couple of drops of almond or vanilla or coconut extract in too.

kpickles said...

Amazing! I am overwhelmed by your commitment to your kids.

amy g. said...

You said in the dino post that you re-used some of the train table playdough for that...how did you convince your kids to take it apart!?

Kitten Muffin said...

Ah, the train table was still up when they went to bed. I took it apart after they were asleep and when they woke in the morning, breakfast was on the table and I explained that we were going to use all the bits and the playdough to make another toy and if they wanted to then we could build another train table too. They didn't have a problem with it, which was a nice surprise. Dino island was the same. I have all the playdough saved in air tight containers ready to use again.

I've got them pretty used to the idea of grabbing stuff out of the recycling, making something and then when they are done playing with it, taking it apart and making sure the right bits go back in the right recycling containers. They really enjoyed taking apart the giant rocket ship when it was too damaged to play with anymore.

THE ISCHY FAMILY said...

Thks for sharing this wonderful idea! We are starting on the universe next week and I think I will makes this playdough and let them have at creating the solar system on the kitchen table.

Ellen said...

Wow, what a wonderful idea; you are so very creative! My kids will adore this! Thank you for sharing:)

Tango said...

I've bookmarked this forever, and finally we tried it. I made the dough at least a year ago and hadn't used it since. But it was in good shape, although a little more wet. We built the lands for fairies,.spring, summer, fall and winter. I have to admit, I couldn't help myself and had to help. So fun! Thanks!!!