Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cinnamon Dough Ornaments!

There are a lot of odors at our school, most of which you would classify as "stinky." This is not one of them.

If every preschool doesn't make stuff from cinnamon dough, they should. We usually make ours in the two weeks leading up to our December holiday break and it makes the whole school smell good for at least a week.

You'll want to start with finding an inexpensive source for large quantities of cinnamon because the stuff you buy at a regular supermarket is going to be quite expensive. I don't regularly shop at big box stores, so maybe it's just me, but I generally have to start hunting in mid-November to find the dirt cheap variety.

I can't give you the exact measures of the ingredients, but we use cinnamon, apple sauce, and a little white school glue (the glue is not necessary, but it does make for a less brittle finished product). I pre-mix the dough for the 2-year-olds, but the other classes make their own. Everyone gets a pile of cinnamon, a dollop of apple sauce, and a half-dollop of glue on a tray. There is a real process here, and I'm not talking about the step-by-step variety. For many kids, this is more like a journey from ick-to-joy.

When you lay your hands in your pile, the first thing that happens is that it all sticks to your fingers in an apparently hopeless manner. Many kids are done at that point, holding up their encrusted hands in front of themselves, saying, "I need a towel." Some of them we can lure back into the process with promises of a wonderful ornaments if they keep going, followed by a good hand washing. Those that reaaaallly hate messy hands are urged to come back later because by then there will be plenty of pre-mixed dough around.

Even the adults doubt me at first that this will turn into dough. It takes awhile for it to come together and the tendency is to overreact and start adding more wet ingredients too soon. But if you keep working it, as the less mess-averse children do, you will, almost miraculously, suddenly find yourself holding a small ball of dough. (If it's still too dry after about 5 minutes, then start adding a little more apple sauce a little at a time until you wind up with a fairly stiff dough that no longer sticks to your fingers.) Each child's batch is its own experiment. We let the kids more or less tell us when they think their batch is ready.

Now it's time to roll it out and choose your cookie cutter. We'd just read Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby, so we mostly went with gingerbread man shapes, although we have quite a few stars, bells, and candy canes as well. We also make sure to keep a spatula handy for transferring our ornaments to the drying racks (we used to use old window screens, but this year we just went with wax paper). The final step is to use a drinking straw to poke a hole in each one so that we can later run a loop of yarn or ribbon through it for hanging.

One of our "art parent's" primary jobs is to keep collecting the excess dough into a single ball, which we then can use to entice the kids who previously didn't like having sticky hands.

I hear from a lot of our former parents around this time of year. Most of them say they were reminded of preschool when they open their box of ornaments and still smell the scent of cinnamon from all those years ago. I'm always pleased that this is the "stink" that sparks that remembrance.

Those of us still in the classroom spend the days afterwards, no matter how well we wash, smelling it on our hands and thinking of the holiday to come.

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Francine said...

I've been wanting to do this with my three year old, but I need to find a cheap source for the cinnamon.

And thanks so much for the idea of having him mix it himself! I would have just done it for him, which is what I did when we made salt dough ornaments on the weekend.

Tobi said...

What a delicious idea! I'll have to try it sometime!

Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings said...

Woohoo, this looks super fun, we will be doing as an advent calendar activity this week. Thanks for the "recipe"! :-)

Valarie said...

You can get large containers of cinnamon at the dollar store!