I have been doing some reading recently on the benefits of giving children the opportunity to have free play with loose parts and trying to incorporate it more into our days. Loose parts basically means any small bits and bobs, such as feathers, marbles, lollypop sticks, pine cones, shells etc... There is a great article on Nurture Store that outlines the benefits of free play with loose parts and has a free downloadable print-out with ideas of things you can use; I have it up on the wall to give me inspiration for what to get out.
On this occasion we made a new batch of playdough (it was meant to be hot pink but I haven't got the hang of colouring yet and it was more dusky pink), and then I put it out along with a bowl of lavender flowers, some lollipop sticks, cocktail stick umbrellas, some wooden 'people', a few playdough utensils and some magnetic numbers (a blatant attempt to make this activity educational).
Things that can be sprinkled are always well-received, so Poppet had a great time sprinkling the lavender flowers into the playdough making it smell lovely.
She was very careful about rolling it out and even placed the rolling pin underneath it to try and lift it, something she has seen me do when rolling out pastry. I sometimes forget that they are always watching and learning!
I am guessing that playdough can get a bit boring with the same old utensils every time so it helped Poppet to see it in a new light with a new set of loose parts to explore. She loved standing the umbrellas up in the playdough and sprinking the lavender the most. In hindsight I probably gave her too many loose parts so in future will limit that - the lollypop sticks and numbers weren't even touched. The Nurture Store talks of a 'Magic Three Formula', i.e. using 3 different types of loose parts, which sounds about right.
Poppet: 2 yrs 8 mos