When I was a child, one of my favorite snacks was Peanut Butter Balls. The recipe for these is delightfully simple:

  1. Wash all the hands that might go in the mixture. This includes your own, any child helpers, and any children who claim they do not want to help but might get drawn in once they see there is honey and chocolate involved.
  2. Scoop 1 cup of peanut butter into a mixing bowl.
  3. Add 3/4 cup nonfat dry milk
  4. Start squishing these together.
  5. While mixing, add chocolate chips and honey to taste.

This is my mother’s version of the recipe, anyway, carefully written in the margins of the cookbook. As a kid, the next step was always to carefully roll the dough into balls and arrange them on the tray. And then of course to eat them.

Doing this for snack with my homeschool kids the other day, I ran into a problem. Serena is too little to make balls, and the three-year-olds in the group are too impatient to leave them on the plate for more than a second or two. Which in turn upsets the older kids who want to Do The Project Right.

So I got out the cookie cutters and child-size rolling pins and let them play with the mess they were making, instead of fighting for control. The peanut dough turns out to be malleable and not very sticky. It was like edible play dough. Each kid had a decent portion to play with, that they could safely nibble as they went. Unlike cookie dough, there’s no need to bake it and no raw egg to fret over.

Need I saw how awesome this was? Let me repeat: edible play dough!

Thanks, Mom! I owe you big, for writing down the recipe, for letting me run off with your cookbook, and for raising me to think of creative ways out of sticky situations. We’ll be doing this one again for sure.

What are your favorite cooking activities with kids? Do you have a creative way to make messes in the kitchen? Let me know in the comments below.