Edible Hebrew: Alef-Bet Playdough

Edible playdo ingredients

Buying corn syrup just feels wrong.  I usually go out of my way to avoid corn syrup in foods, so buying a full, glistening bottle of Karo on purpose is just weird.  Yesterday, I felt so conspicuous slipping it into my grocery cart, I might as well have been buying sex toys or country ham or People magazine.

It was worth it.  The nervous guilt at the cash register has faded, and the recipe for edible playdough—featuring corn syrup—worked just fine.

Here’s what happened today:

I had some new Aleph Bet cookie cutters to try out, and my son’s Sunday School teacher okayed my idea to bring in some edible playdough.  The kids selected the cutter letters that were part of their current unit: a kaf, yud, pey and hey, which spell kipah (Hebrew for yarmulke, which is Yiddish for, as my Dad used to say, “those beanies.”).

Kipah

Here’s the recipe I used, but many more are on online.  Some versions have to be cooked, some involve pulverized baked goods, but this one is nearly instant: just stir, knead and go. The amounts below make more than enough for six kids to play with, and allows for the inevitable blob or two that will fall on the floor and get stepped on.

2 cups creamy peanut butter (substitute soy butter if allergies are an issue)
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 cups powdered milk
1 3/4 cups corn syrup

Not the healthiest snack perhaps, but most kids barely nibbled. Knowing that they could eat their own playdough seemed to satisfy them, even if they didn’t actually chow down terribly much.

Preschool class

The tricky part for very young kids is figuring out which side of the cookie cutter is the “right” side, and then realizing that the side that makes cutting easier also happens to be the side that results in dough letters that are not backward.  How do they know when a letter is backward? Here’s where a visual aid comes in handy: a chart or poster of the letters. It’s best to use one with a font that matches the cutters (see links below).

We had a couple of play rolling-pins, which are always fun, but children can also squish a blob of dough flat by pressing a sturdy plate straight down.  Glass plates are neat because kids can visually gauge when they’ve transformed a blob into something fairly flat and level.

We used cookie cutters today, but kids can also shape letters without them.  They just roll little logs of dough and arrange into the right configurations. They can build to match the visual reference you provide, whether straight-sided or curvy.  See links below for different charts to print.

Kids can help prepare the dough.  It’s pretty darn sticky until it reaches the rollable stage, so use a long-handled, sturdy spoon for stirring.  You don’t want to scare the tactile-challenged kids before they even start.  I mix this in advance if I’m not sure of the texture-tolerance of the group.  Call me over-cautious, but I’ve been puked on and shall therefore remain wary.

Honestly, this recipe doesn’t keep well.  It’s best for a one-time, mix-right-then activity.  I’d like to find a normal cookie dough recipe that doesn’t call for eggs (for safety) or corn syrup (for sanity), so the nutritional content is a bit more reasonable. That way, when the kids measure and mix, they are exercising practical kitchen skills, they can nibble, and we have the option to bake the finished letters.  But for a nearly instant activity, today’s adventure worked well. And anything that creates a link between Hebrew and sweetness and fun is a winner.

Cookie Cutters:

The letters in the plastic set we used today (from Shulsinger Judaica) are about 2″ high. I also have a gorgeous metal set from Kosher Cook, which are a bit bigger (they range up to 3″).  For very young children, the plastic is easier to manipulate and to figure out which side is the right one for cutting. Both are sold at OyToys.com.

Hebrew Charts ready to print online:

Behrman House Publishers have a Hebrew Writing Chart pdf.  Note that some of the letters are still slightly curvy. Very young kids may need help interpreting the curves into straight logs of dough.  Still, it’s free…

EKS Publishing Co. has a great chart for $1.50: “Handy Hebrew Writing Guide.” Includes names of letters. This is my favorite. All letters are composed of strictly straight lines, which makes it easy to interpret into straight logs of dough (or pretzel sticks).

Hebrew Writing Chart from Ahklah.com

Akhlah.com offers this chart with directional arrows that show how to write (or form with materials) each letter.  Unfortunately, there are no letter names, so it assumes prior knowledge.  It’s a pdf ready to print.

Akhlah.com also has this nice pdf to print, which shows the letter names, but the font is the fancier block kind, like you’ll find in a siddur (prayer book), plus the script (cursive).

Edible PlayDough recipes: 

at MakingFriends.com

at Cooks.com

at MakePlayDough.com

Thank you, Ms. L, for letting me visit and play today! 

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4 responses to “Edible Hebrew: Alef-Bet Playdough

  1. My 5 Hebrew students will love this! Thank you for bringing the sweetness of Torah – literally!! – to our kids!

  2. That’s it! You totally get it: Torah and sweetness via edible playdo and corn syrup. I would love to see pictures of your version…

  3. What a great idea! I once subbed for a 5th grade class and started by discussing each student’s Hebrew name. This age (and both old and younger) would be SO engaged in a class where they made their names from edible play dough.

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