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Gingerbread Cookie Decorating

We loved nibbling on this dough and decorating the baked gingerbread cookies in our PLAY! With Your Food, Holiday Edition 2017 event. The allergy friendly ingredients allow all kids to get involved and enjoy in the play. These would be great to make for a playdate, or to bring to your child's class! 


The recipe to make these yummy gingerbread people is found here, on our food recipe page.  Remember, you can freeze them, so don't be afraid to make a lot!  On those cold winter weekends when the family wants to stay inside, just pull them out, and enjoy an entertaining, hands on activity...and sweet treat!

Developmental Play Notes:

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These gingerbread cookies are a great way all children can enjoy the fun of decorating cookies, without the need for a separate treat due of allergy restrictions.  Moving your body increases language, so as your child is stirring, rolling, cutting, and designing, this is a great time to get the conversation going!  Try to narrate what your child is doing, and share what you notice.  Remember there is no wrong way to decorate a gingerbread man, or woman! 

A few play examples:

  • Stirring the batter, rolling the dough, and transferring the cookies to the baking sheet build motor skills.  Explore toppings of different sizes and textures, sharing observations with your child as you decorate. 
  • Take a moment to let your child smell a few of the spices individually.  Ask him which one he likes the best, comment on the differences in the smells between cinnamon and nutmeg for example.  Perhaps share a story of what these smells remind you of. 
  • Let your child know it's OK to get messy! Comment on what occurred without judgement. "Wow you squeezed so hard, ALL the icing came out at once! That gingerbread man is covered!  I bet a lot of toppings can stick to him now. Let's see!"
  • Build on your child's sense of "theory of mind" (ability to understand things from someone else's perspective).  Have your child decorate a cookie for each member of the family, a friend, or maybe even a book or TV character! "What do you think Daddy would like on his cookie?" Give your child a moment to create, and if he's stumped, lead with a few examples: "Well, I know I LOVE the color red, so I'm going to put red sprinkles on MY cookie...What is your Dad's favorite color?" or "I see you put candy canes on your gingerbread man. Do you think your friend Susan would want candy canes on her cookie?" or "If we could give a cookie to Bugs Bunny, he might want to see a carrot on it, because he loves carrots! What does your sister love? Let's draw that on the cookie!" 

Let us know if you played!

Dry Sensory Bin

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The options are endless with a sensory bin filled with dry materials.  Why dry materials you ask?  For some children, starting with dry materials is the way to go in order for them to feel comfortable exploring with their tactile (touch) system.  Dry materials also provide amazing auditory and visual stimulation when paired with the right materials.

Basic Tips:

  1. Consider your child's age and safety.  Are they still mouthing items?  
  2. Think about what your child is likely to do with the bin and adjust size and amount of materials accordingly (Are they likely to dump it out of the bin? Start with just a little so you don't get frustrated with the process.  Are they looking to climb into the bin? Find a big box that allows this type of whole body exploration!).
  3. Where are you planning to play with the bin?  If it's on a hard surface, consider bouncing and rolling factors with materials.  On a carpet or rug?  Your options might be different.

General "Formula" for success:

  1. Select your dry material.
  2. Add a few items that allow for scooping, pouring, collecting (e.g., spoons, scoops, bowls, jars); your kitchen is a great place to start!  Select different materials such as metal, plastic, wood to explore the auditory component of sensory bin play.
  3. Pair some figurines, blocks, or other small manipulatives that might expand the play; try your play space to pick out a few items
  4. Have a tray available for moving materials out of the sensory bin
  5. Don't add too much!  Less is often more here.

A Few Dry Bin Suggestions:

  1. dry lentils
  2. dry beans
  3. popcorn kernels
  4. rice (you can easily make colorful rice by placing rice in a container and adding food coloring and vinegar, mixing it up, laying it out to dry on a tray)
  5. dry pasta in all different shapes (you can color pasta just like noted with rice above)
  6. tapioca pearls
  7. couscous
  8. quinoa
  9. oats
  10. flour

Fun Variation:

Want to add another sensory component?  Put dry lavender or another dried flower/herb into your bin!

Let us know if you played!

Salt Dough

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Salt dough is easy, peasy to make and a ton of fun to work with.  Have children measure, mix, roll, and cut out shapes.  Once your salt dough is dry (you can either bake it on a low temperature or let it air dry), paint and decorate your creations.

All you'll need:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup salt

1/2 cup water

Yep, that's it!  Mix it together until your dough is workable.  Flour your surface, hands, and rolling pin and you are set to let the creativity flow.

Fun Variations:

  • Add food coloring to your dough
  • Divide your dough into a few bowls, add different colors to each one, layer small pieces of dough to create a marble effect

Let us know if you played!