Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Safer Gifts in 2012: Gluten Free and Non-Wheat-Based Modeling Dough Edition

Our family has been experimenting in 2012 with toys and art projects that are safer for my youngest daughter, who must be strictly gluten free.

Play-Dough is a ubiquitous childhood memory. I have fond recollections of squishing and manipulating Play-Dough, and modelling various little masterpieces before letting them air dry.

Unfortunately, Play-Dough and most commercial modeling doughs are made with wheat flour, so rubbing these products all over our family's kitchen table is not an option, as it presents a pretty high risk of cross contamination for the same place where we eat most of our meals.

Thankfully, there are a lot of good, safer alternatives that would make excellent gifts for almost any kid.*

So far, my top pick for a gluten free dough alternative is Mama-K's gluten free play clay. This stuff is in a class of its own for quality and design. We picked up the 5 tub variety pack of this in the summer, and the 5 different colors in modestly sized tubs turned out to be a convenient way to leave a few with my youngest daughter's preschool classroom, so that she can model with this if there is a Play-Dough project going on.

Each of the 5 colors has its own fragrance from organic essential oils: bergamot (yellow), lavender (purple), sweet orange (an orangey-red), geranium (pink), and lemongrass (green). My husband and I get headaches from artificial scents, but these natural scents are low-key and not overpowering to me - quite to the contrary, I enjoy them. Also, the flours used to make Mama-K's are certified gluten free, so of the options we've tried, this one seems to have the most stringent standards for its doughs' processing and ingredients.

See above, right, the screenshot from the Crayola website. Cross contamination seems to still present a very small, but relevant risk. Please choose only modeling doughs that meet your family's safety and dietary/allergen requirements, with the advice of your trusted health care professional.
The other non-wheat-based modeling alternatives we've been able to try out this year are by Crayola, and include Model Magic and Air-Dry Clay. While their ingredients aren't as natural/crunchy as those in Mama-K's dough, the Crayola doughs are still a good option for any air-dry project, or a project that you'd like to paint and customize after drying - homemade Christmas ornaments certainly come to mind. The Model Magic and another brand's take on Model Magic have popped up at my daughter's occupational therapists' office and at her mainstream preschool. On a practical note, I suggest opting for the white (uncolored) version of the Model Magic over the colored version, since I have seen our youngest daughter's occupational therapist use a Crayola marker to "dot" a wad of the Model Magic a few times and massage it, thus changing the white wad of dough into the marker's color. You could also experiment with natural liquid or powder dyes if magic markers are not an option, or wait until the white dough drys sufficiently before you paint your projects.

Have you tried a gluten-free modeling dough this year? What was your favorite?

*Note that according to the Crayola website, there is a small risk of cross contamination from the Crayola plant using the same processing lines as it uses for its wheat-flour-based dough - though the lines are cleaned between processing products. (See Crayola website screenshot above.) If your child is at risk from this potential level of cross contamination (i.e., putting his/her fingers in her mouth while modeling, or eating the Crayola dough, or working on a surface with the dough on which he/she regularly eats meals, etc.), you will need to decide for yourself with the advice of your trusted health care professional whether the products in this post meet your family's individual needs or not. Remember to read ingredient labels fully for your family's own needs. All posts and information provided within this blog are for informational and educational purposes only, and is not to be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken solely on the contents of this website.  

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