Flour and Water

We recently attended a back-to-school event at my daughter’s preschool, where her teacher shared a funny and inspiring story that involved a messy flour and water sensory activity. With my ears on the alert for fun and thoughtful creativity-builders, I knew immediately that this was something we had to try. It’s unbelievably simple and requires no art supplies…all you need is flour and water. It’s so straightforward, in fact, that I’m almost embarrassed it wasn’t already part of my repertoire. Strip your kids down and get ready for some messy flour fun. This activity is all about activating the senses, and will entertain your toddler or preschooler for a good long time. Guaranteed.

Before you get started, be prepared for a bit of mess, although nothing too cray-cray since it’s just flour and water. I set us up in the kitchen and placed the materials on a low table covered in oil cloth.

Our materials included a large mixing bowl, three little bowls, and a spoon. Two of the little bowls were half-full of flour, and the third was three quarters full of warm water. The large bowl was empty. Without giving her any directions, I merely placed the materials in front of my daughter and encouraged her exploration with comments such as “you’re dumping the flour in the large mixing bowl” and “what does the dough feel like in your hands?”

Pouring water with a spoon.

My daughter started by pouring all of the flour into the large bowl and mixing it dry. After playing with it for a bit, she requested more flour. I gave her two more bowls, one white and one wheat, and we talked about the differences for a moment before the scooping resumed.  After moving all of the flour into the large bowl, she scooped it all back up with her spoon and divided most of it up into the little bowls until they overflowed. At this point the water was still untouched, which really surprised me as I imagined she’d hastily dump the water in the large bowl in one big pour. Instead, she gently poured the water, spoonful by spoonful, into a small bowl of flour and mixed it in. And she was very careful to keep her hands clean throughout! No surprise there, as my child is obsessed with napkins and tidiness.

Hand mixing.

But as the activity escalated, one hand finally succumbed to hand mixing, and then the fun really began. She had a running commentary throughout the process that was fun to witness. I sounded something like this, “Now I’m mixing it with my hand. It’s like dough. I’m pouring more water in. I’m making bread dough. Can we make this in the bread maker?”

At the end of it all, she asked for a mid-day bath, and my trusty assistant/Mother-in-Law and I were more than happy to oblige.

More sensory ideas

  • Fill a tub with beans, rice, or sand. Offer your child small bowls and scoopers for filling and dumping.
  • Play with shaving cream.
  • Mix corn starch and water. What a strange feeling!
  • Play with ice cubes in a warm bath.
  • Shine a flashlight or experiment with a glow stick in a dark room.
  • Blow out candles.

Comments

  1. danielle says

    oh dear oh dear. the words flour and water bring back a dark memory. Simone and I did a paper mâché balloon with flour and water and it was a disaster. I was giving her instructions on how to use it and she just wanted to splash the solution everywhere. I became irrational because I wanted to do a specific project and she wanted to explore. if only I knew then what I know now. a child explores. adults follow instruction. oh rachelle. and this is why I am always impressed with your blog because you state the obvious. stand back and observe.
    but I do have to say. the flour and water we played with turned into rock hard glue and I was unable to wash it out of any fabric and I was scrubbing bowls for days. do you have a trick?

    • says

      dan! it’s so true that little ones have their own ideas, and are more invested in process that product. as for clean-up, i left it to my MIL, and she was definitely busy scrubbing the table cloth for longer than I expected. This is why I recommend stripping kids down, and covering surfaces. maybe soaking bowls in hot water would help? did your paste mix ever come out of the fabric?

      • danielle says

        no it didn’t. the clothes hit the trash and the blanket is now decorated with chunks.
        but in the end there is no loss. I gained knowledge and experience.

  2. says

    Flour and Water is THE BEST!! Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to bring important learning to children? Flour and water! yes, the clean up is something special, but it’s worth it. Congratulations are doing something wonderful for your child!!!!
    ~ MaryAnn

    • says

      I like your description of clean up as “something special.” I’ll keep that language in mind the next time I’m cursing the end of a big, messy, fun project :)