Children love "playing at life". When I taught Head Start, I enlisted my classroom parents to save things like cereal and cracker boxes, and all kinds of cleaned up food containers for a few weeks before our "grocery store" opened up. I no longer remember what unit I put this in, probably something to do with learning about where food comes from. As my husband used to say when we got married, "I've slept since then." I had a couple of inexpensive shopping carts and a little cash register. We set up the food items on low shelves in our "grocery store". The kids loved it and it was a very fun learning center for our classroom. You could easily adapt this to your home on a smaller scale. Actually, I personally played "grocery store" with my sisters, as a girl. We had a toy cash register that we set up on our play ironing board in front of my mother's pantry shelves. We took turns "shopping". We thought it was a lot of fun. My mother only had one rule, as I remember. We had to leave the cans neat on the shelf when we were finished. I can remember getting a lot of satisfaction from straightening the canned goods after we were through playing. In fact, I still don't mind organizing canned goods to this day. I like to rotate them after I bring home new cans, so my oldest stuff is always at the front. However, I do not have entire rooms of canned goods and packages like the extreme coupon shoppers have. Nor, do I want that much. I'd worry we wouldn't get it used up before it all expires. In fact, when I see one of those shoppers buy 65 containers of mustard, or even greater quantities, I usually think to myself, that I doubt I could use that much before I die. But, if you have small children or grandchildren, playing grocery store is one of those fun activities that will keep them busy on a cold winter day when they can't go outside.  If you don't have a shopping cart, make a shopping basket. If you don't have a cash register, make a cash box or drawer. If you don't have play money, they can color some with a crayon. Remember, "play is a child's work". Don't hand them ready finished toys all the time, let them make their own play. It's how they learn to be more creative!

Yes,'s possible to make your own chalk. Credit must be given to Country Living Magazine, for the recipe and instructions.

Ingredients: Plaster of Paris, a plastic candle mold, tempera paint. These supplies should be able to be found at a craft store. However, Wal-Mart may have the plaster and molds. I have also found tempera paint at a school supply. I have powdered tempera paint like my grade school teachers used that I bought years ago at a school supply that is still good, as far as I can tell, it seems to last virtually forever.  Wal-mart used to carry all this kind of stuff, but they've been going through such transition in recent years, who knows what they have from week to week. They seem to do clearance on the most common random things that are used in every household.
1. Mix 3 tablespoons of tempera paint with 1 cup cold water. Slowly add one and a half cups plaster of Paris. Stir till lumps are all dissolved. Mixture should be consistency of thick yogurt.
2. Pour mixture into each half of candle mold. Gently tap to release air bubbles. Let halves sit for 2 minutes before carefully closing them together to create one unit. Tape shut to cure.
3. Allow mold to sit for 24 hours, then open and carefully remove. Allow chalk to dry for another 24 to 48 hours before using. Repeat as desired.

If you want to save money on molds, check out your kitchen for substitutes. I'm thinking an ice cube tray could make some short, stubby ones and save some money.

You may be asking, "why make chalk when you can buy it so easily?"

It's in the category of why we teach children all biscuits don't come from a box or can, that all pizza doesn't come from a freezer or Pizza Hut, that before there were frozen waffles, there were homemade. I don't know that homemade chalk is any better than bought, but I think it's important for children to grow up learning that there's another way of doing things than just going to the store. Sort of like when my Grandmother Millwee made her own peanut butter. At the time, I didn't like it because I liked the homogenized Jiffy style. But, it makes a lovely memory to hold onto...making things with my grandmother in her kitchen.

And, I certainly hope this recipe is here when I return the next time. I distinctly remember typing this and saving this yesterday. However, upon my return, it was missing. Probably I did something wrong, I'll never know at this point. It's not like I'm the most technologically savvy person in the universe.

1 c. white flour
1/4 c. salt
2 tbsp. cream of tartar
1 c. water
2 tsp. food coloring
1 tbsp. oil
Mix flour, salt and cream of tartar in a medium-size saucepan. In a separate bowl mix the water, oil, and food coloring. Mix into dry ingredients and stir over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until it forms a ball in the center of the pan. As soon as you can handle it, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it no longer sticks to your fingers. Store in a Zip-Loc bag or plastic butter container with a snap on lid.
Note: I made gallons of this stuff when I taught Head Start. If you take good care of it and keep it sealed up after each use, it lasts pretty good. I used to make special related colors for holidays, orange for fall and Halloween, red for Christmas and get the idea. Look through your kitchen for cast off items that can be used for play dough tools. If you're unable or unwilling to forfeit any for play dough, go to the thrift store and buy some cheap stuff for play dough. Play dough is so much more fun with some tools. You can also add a couple of tiny drops of scents to go along with themes and holidays. 

2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. salt
1 tsp. cream of tartar
2 pkgs. unsweetened Kool Aid (any flavor
Mix together above ingredients. Add: 3 tbsp. oil
Knead well and enjoy playing with it. Store in refrigerator.

1 c. Joy
1/2 c. white Karo syrup
2 qts. water
Mix and enjoy. Do not eat these, just because they have Karo syrup does not mean they are edible. Also, do not use these bubbles on cement sidewalks or driveways, they will be slippery. You need to use them on the GRASS!