April 18, 2011 05:00 ET

Say Yes to Cooking Up a Mess With Your Kids! With Tips From Clorox

Creative Messy Cooking Is Good for Kids

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - Apr 18, 2011) - (Family Features) It seems as if parents spend a lot of time trying to get their kids to clean up -- or, better yet, to not make a mess in the first place. But guess what? Getting messy can actually be good for kids.

Clinical research shows that creative, messy activities like cooking and baking engage all of a child's senses, helping them explore new ideas and teaching them how to solve problems. It also provides valuable time together, as well as an opportunity to teach basic math skills, cleaning habits and nutrition.

"To unlock a child's fullest potential, cooking activities, even as simple as pouring and mixing, are recommended at least three to four times a week," said Karen Deerwester, child development expert and founder of Family Time, Inc.

According to Deerwester, children shape their own learning by transforming unpredictable, messy experiences into creative, purposeful action. "These mess-to-morsel experiences teach children a critical life skill called executive function," she said, "which is a child's ability to self-manage behavior and negotiate age-appropriate challenges and obstacles. Furthermore, these types of activities teach kids to take risks, learn from mistakes and create out-of-the-box solutions."

Children learn through play, so Deerwester encourages parents to cook up a mess with their children on a regular basis. These tips and ideas will help you create a powerful -- and fun -- learning experience for your child.

For more information and ideas for messy play activities, visit

How to cook up a mess with kids

  • Baking and basic food assembly is the easiest way to branch into messy culinary play. Cut up fruits and vegetables to make fun faces, or simply mix together homemade dough to play with and shape. (See recipes.)
  • Age is just a number! Allow even the youngest chef to help by pouring ingredients like flour, sugar and eggs into a bowl.
  • Start simple. No-bake cookies, smoothies and sandwiches are a great start. If using a cookbook, start with one that has pictures for each instruction.
  • Pour on the praise! No matter the outcome, always encourage their effort. Remember, practice makes perfect.
  • Spills happen. Take it in stride and simply use the opportunity to teach clean-up. Clean applicable surfaces with Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner with Bleach, especially after using eggs or raw meat.

Show me the homemade play dough!
Get started on some creative kitchen play with these homemade play doughs and fun toast art.

Best Play Dough Ever
2cups flour
1cup salt
1teaspoon cream of tartar
2tablespoons oil
1teaspoon food coloring
2cups water

Mix ingredients in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until dough leaves sides of the pan. Remove from pan. When cool to the touch, knead for a few minutes. Play dough can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks in an airtight container.

Edible Peanut Butter Play Dough*
1cup peanut butter
1cup powdered milk
1/4cup honey

Optional texture items: raisins, coconut, crushed graham crackers
Mix the first three ingredients in a large bowl until smooth. Add optional texture items.
*Not for children with peanut allergies.

Chocolate Play Dough
1 1/4cup flour
1/2cup cocoa powder
1/2cup salt
1/2teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2tablespoons cooking oil
1cup boiling water

Combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, and cream of tartar. Add cooking oil and boiling water. Stir quickly and mix well. Cook over low heat until dough forms a ball. When cool, knead with hands. Refrigerate and store in an airtight container. Smells great, but is not really sweet enough to eat.

Love Toast
Toast is for more than just eating. White bread is an excellent canvas for making mealtime extra special. Simply paint bread with milk mixed with food coloring and then toast. For some extra fun, cut toast into a special shape using a seasonal cookie cutter. For a fruity flavor twist, create paint out of water and flavored powdered gelatin mix.

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