Messy Play Recipes
Chapter 4 of Messy Play in the Early Years - Supporting Learning through Materials Engagements, suggests a range of sensory and fun ways of using plain yoghurt in messy play. If you've never thought about using homemade yoghurt for edible messy play then think again! Here's a fail safe simple recipe for making your very own safe and healthy messy play material. The best bit is that this can be made with children supporting their understanding of where our food comes from and cleanliness too. It makes a great science experiment and supports self-regulation and gratification delay as children reap the rewards of waiting for their yoghurt to thicken.
All you need is 800ml of milk (whole or semi-skimmed) and 4 tablespoons of plain live yoghurt – initially this will need to be shop bought, but once made, you will be able to use your own as the future starter.
- Measure the milk into a saucepan.
- Gently heat to 85c or 185f using a jam thermometer. It’s not actually necessary to use a thermometer but this does help children visually focus not to mention adding theatre and science! (If judging by eye, then simply heat until the milk bubbles and starts to rise up the pan), then remove from the heat to avoid over-heating. In fact after experimenting the yoghurt will still look and taste fine even if the milk is left to boil for a few minutes so the lack of a thermometer is not an excuse!
- Leave to cool to 43c or 110f (or if doing freestyle, until it feels tepid to touch with the back of your (clean) knuckle – a conversation point in itself about the sensitivity of the skin! Scoop off any skin and discard after children have had an opportunity to look and touch it.
- While the milk is cooling its time to prepare the laboratory for growing the yoghurt cultures. A clean Kilner jar is perfect but this needs to be sterilised to make sure that you don’t inadvertently grow harmful bacteria. Put a metal desert spoon into the jar so that the handle of the spoon projects out of the jar, then the adult carefully pours some boiling water onto the spoon and gently tips the jar so that it is coated with the boiling water. Pour the water away then leave up ended to air dry on a clean tea towel.
- When the jar is dry you’re ready to/its time to add the live yoghurt starter, one spoon at a time gently mixing after the first spoon. Again clean hands are essential. Carefully stir the yoghurt into the milk without scraping the bottom of the pan as this will introduce lumps and potentially bits of brown burnt milk, then pour into the jar and wrap in a dry tea towel.
- Pre-heat the oven to the lowest temperature for 5 minutes then turn off before the yoghurt is put in.Place the yoghurt in the oven, with the jar still wrapped in the clean tea towel.
- The children can check the yoghurt by removing its warm tea towel jacket and gently tipping to see whether it has set, but this will take several hours so they will need to be patient.
- Once ready the yoghurt needs to be stored in the fridge for use. Depending upon how long the yoghurt is left will determine its consistency so children may be intrigued by its slippery qualities or if some of the liquid and solid separates. Older children can experiment with time and consistency to see what works, and tastes best!
Using the Yoghurt
Check out the ideas for using homemade plain yoghurt, set out in Chapter 4 of Messy Play in the Early Years (page 86-87). If you're waiting for your copy to wing its way to you then here's an idea for a starter! Put a few dollops of the white creamy yoghurt on a child safe mirror or tray lined with tinfoil for some sensory exploration and mark-making.