If you’ve read ‘The Bog Baby’ by Jeanne Willis and Gwen Millward, you’ll know that bog babies are round and blue, with goggly eyes, spiky tails and ears like a mouse, and their wings are no bigger than daisy petals. This magical book is perfect for inspiring creative model making and small world play, while at the same time gently encouraging children to explore what it means for a thing to be wild and free. Read on to find out how to make a home-made play dough bog baby kit with our play dough recipe and basic craft accessories – not only are they great fun, they also make fantastic and original gifts when given with a copy of the book!
A friend of mine recently had an operation, and as she was going to need a period of recuperation afterwards, I wanted to put together a craft-y activity present that would help keep her two preschoolers busy, along with a book for some quiet time together too. As I’ve described my book review, we love ‘The Bog Baby’ story so much, it was a natural choice of gift – and it lends itself beautifully to all sorts of activities. A home-made play dough bog baby kit was something nice and simple that would (hopefully!) appeal to both her youngest and eldest, and that the kids could play with relatively independently while mummy took it easy.
To make our home-made play dough bog baby, T-Bird and I started off by mixing up a batch of sparkly blue play dough. We used our favourite no-cook recipe (courtesy of the excellent The Imagination Tree) that allows her to be fully involved in making it. T-Bird is very proprietorial about her play dough and loves making it just as much as playing with it. So while I handle the boiling water stage, she does everything else.
- 150g plain flour
- 75g table salt
- 2 tbsp cream of tartar
- 2 tbsp oil (eg. vegetable or olive)
- 350ml boiling water (maximum)
- Food colouring & glitter (optional)
Mix together the flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil.
In a separate container, add food colouring into the boiling water, then stir gradually into the dry ingredients until it forms a sticky dough.
Knead cooled dough until all of the stickiness has gone (this takes a while!). If it stays sticky then add a little more flour until consistency feels right.
I was in two minds about adding glitter – it’s not exactly environmentally friendly and I wasn’t sure if my friend’s youngest was past the eating-everything stage – however T-bird was not and insisted that bog babies are shiny because they live in water. You can’t argue with that kind of three-year-old logic, so in went a humongous pile of glitter in watery shades of sliver, blue and green. We also scented our play dough with some vanilla extract, because that’s how I like our play dough to smell. In the book, the bog baby lives in a bluebell wood, so you could also use something floral, like lavender, instead.
A big ball of our play dough went into a recycled and relabelled soup container, but I made sure to leave some space for the embellishments. We’re pretty well stocked on kids craft supplies thanks to my compulsion for discount store shopping, so I was able to put together a little pack of googly eyes (big and small), and some pipe cleaners, along with some craft sequins and beads in the permitted watery colours (T-Bird was really getting into the colour theming).
My friend is a vegan, so I left out the coloured feathers I included in T-Bird’s home-made play dough bog baby. Instead, I sketched out some simple wing shapes on white card, based on the daisy-like wings of the bog baby in the book’s illustrations. Once cut out, these were actually really effective and fun additions to our bog babies. T-Bird was noncommittal when it came to using them though – sometimes they went on, and sometimes they went on the floor…
As we sent our home-made play dough bog baby gift by post, I wanted to make the purpose obvious so whipped up some personalised labels in Photoshop, using a few bog baby illustrations from the book. You could just as easily do this in a free photo or word-processing program as it didn’t require any complicated editing. A print out of the illustration of the bluebell wood also went in the package, sandwiched in with the book, for the kids to use as a backdrop for a bog baby home. T-Bird made a lovely “pond” for her bog babies using the natural materials we have at home for her to play with – shells, stones and sticks – and we finished the setting off with some knitted bluebells and blue flower beads that I had.
This was such a simple gift to put together – the play dough, if you’ve never made your own, is very quick and simple to make but (hopefully!) sends a message of care and effort that I think only truly comes from something homemade, while still being something practical and useful. I love that T-Bird was able to help with this as well, so it really was a gift from us both. This is an idea you could easily adapt to your own favourite book, and as everything is packed away in a sealed container, would also make a great activity to take on holiday.
‘The Bog Baby’ is one of my and the kids’ all-time favourite books. If you’d like to get hold of a copy yourself, check out the Amazon link below to this and to Jeanne Willis and Gwen Millward’s other magical collaboration, ‘The King of Tiny Things’. These are affiliate links, which means that if you click through and purchase, I will receive a (tadpole sized!) amount towards the running of this website, without adding anything at all to the cost you pay. Thank you so much for your support!
Jeanne Willis’ website has a dedicated section on the Bog Baby, with a lovely gallery of bog baby drawings by children and a ‘Guide to finding Bog Babies – Hints and Tips’ sheet, as well as a printable ‘Bog Baby Survey Form’ to fill in with kids and send in to the publishers, Puffin (UK).
If you enjoyed this, why not try one of our other activities?