When we were on holiday in the South of France recently, the last thing I expected to be doing was googling and pinteresting ideas for indoor activities… but due to a heatwave with unprecedented temperatures of up to 44 degrees, we suddenly found ourselves having to restrict the boys’ outdoor time and come up with some interesting and fun games that could keep them occupied in the shade.

We were very fortunate to be staying at my Dad’s house in Provence, and the garden is filled with lavender at this time of year, so one idea that sprung to mind and would link to our love of the outdoors, was to make lavender play dough. Off to Pinterest I did go, on the hunt for the perfect recipe!

I found loads of variations on a standard play dough recipe, some more complicated than others, but as this was a bit of a ‘throwaway’ activity just to fill an hour or so during a sweltering afternoon, I didn’t want to spend too much on sophisticated ingredients (I’m looking at you, coconut oil…) so I ended up raiding my Dad’s pantry and rustling up a concoction based vaguely on several recipes I found on Pinterest!

To my surprise and the boys’ delight, it actually worked!

First, we had a little walk around the garden to collect a few stems of lavender, then once we were back in the shade, I tasked the boys with stripping the tiny blooms off the stalks, while I put the ingredients together.

I used a washing up bowl to mix up our concoction – not very instaworthy, but it did the job! I couldn’t find any food colouring in the supermarket in France (or in my Dad’s pantry) so I was hoping the fresh lavender blooms might colour the play dough a little bit, but unfortunately it remained a chalky beige colour. So I grabbed the remnants of another indoor activity and added a drop of blue, white and red poster paint to the mix. What could possibly go wrong?

Luck was on my side, as my paint experiment worked and turned the play dough a pale purple colour, hurray!

We scattered in the lavender flowers, gave it a good squeeze, and voila, our own lavender scented play dough!

When we play with Play-Doh at home, the boys have a collection of tools that they use to sculpt their creations, but we didn’t have any props to hand, so I encouraged the boys to experience the feel and smell of the play dough by squishing it and rolling it (they even tasted it, bleargh)

Proceedings soon turned (as they often do in our house) to dinosaurs! We made dinosaur footprints, and Henry covered one in play dough, using the toy as a skeleton for his new play dough dino!

My boys don’t have the longest attention spans so I hadn’t expected this activity to last longer than 10 minutes, but I was pleasantly surprised that we were occupied with making and playing with our lavender play dough for over an hour! Mum win! They were so engaged in playing with our homemade play dough that I decided to wrap it in cling film so we could play with it again the following day…

Which was my only mistake! It may have been the heat or the random concoction of ingredients, but when I unwrapped it again and gave it to the boys the next day, it had turned into a big sticky gloop that became cemented to their hands within seconds! Whoops! So it’s safe to say this is a ‘throwaway’ activity, quite literally – it’s quick and easy to make but enjoy it while it lasts and dispose of it when you’re done!

Here’s the hotch potch of ingredients I used to make our lavender play dough (when I refer to ‘cups’ I literally used a paper cup, not an official measure!):

  • Approx 20 heads of lavender, flowers picked
  • 1 cup of flour (recipes call for plain/all purpose flour, but I used some ‘cake’ flour that I found in the pantry and it worked fine!)
  • 1/4 cup of salt
  • 1/2 cup of warm water
  • 2 tbsp oil (I used the cheapest sunflower oil I could find)
  • Drops of white, red and blue paint to create the desired lavender colour

I mixed the flour and salt together in the bowl, then added the warm water and the oil. Once a dough had formed I added the paint and finally the lavender flowers.

The blog posts that I took inspiration from are this one and this one.

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