When Educare Create was still an idea over coffee and lots of jotted notes on scraps of paper I knew that Sensory Dough would feature prominently – mainly because of the many documented therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy – combined with the wonder that is playdough I knew it was important to include in my baseline products.
I started with lavender, camomile, and mint doughs.
Wanting to maintain integrity of the product and keep as natural as possible I used a combination of dried and fresh herbs with no added oils or colours.
While these were lovely especially when I road tested them with my children and spoke to the barefooted naturalist inside me there were a few teething problems;
The colours were insipid and uninspiring and it was difficult to differentiate between the scents when in the packaging. Fine if set up as an invitation to play for my children but not so good for selling!
The natural oils continued to release from the fresh herbs (lavender and mint) and after some time began to change the integrity of the dough, changing the colour and texture. Again this was fine if used for my own children where they would get a few uses and then discard it. But as in terms of saleability I was looking for consistency and longevity for a quality product.
Also in term of logistics it was all fine and well snipping herbs from my garden in June but I needed something more sustainable to get me through the rest of the year ie Winter!
There was also a slight issue when a key ingredient (cream of tartar) suddenly became extremely difficult and expensive to source – without it, despite various recipes, the dough just wasn’t ‘right’.
So after some (by some I mean many many late nights in my kitchen) experimentation I tweaked ingredients and finally came up with some Sensory Doughs to be proud of – they are vibrant in colour, consistently soft and squishy as play dough should be and the scents are subtle yet develop and intensify when the dough is manipulated and heated by hand – perfect combination.
The Sensory Dough has proved one of the most popular products, I’m so glad I persevered to perfect it. It has been enjoyed by adults and children alike. Frequently purchased as an aide to support calming down for young children who struggle with anxiety related to transitions and end of activity also for people with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder).
This summer I plan to incorporate these heady herby doughs into developing little ‘Gardening Dough Kits’.
The basic doughs are made with flour, sunflower oil, salt, cream of tartar and gel food colour and water. I then use lavender oil and dried lavender flowers, mint extract and driest mint herbs, and dried camomile leaves/flowers to get the desired sensory sensation!