Travel Thursday

The Economy of Playtime

In light of our son’s on-going obsession with his cloud dough:

As I watched him play that second day, I remember being horrified that he’d poured a good deal of it out onto the walkway so he could run trucks and trains over it, making more stories up as he played in his miniature world. The cloud dough is entirely edible–a necessity not so much for the kids but for the safety of the pets who might decide to give the stuff a taste–and part of me lamented the waste.

So why bother making play items out of food and household stock at all if I’m going to fuss over that?

I asked myself the same thing as my son threw the mixture all over the path and himself. True, 8 cups of flour could make a good amount of food for some family somewhere and there we were, playing with it. I wondered how many cookies and cakes I could have made out of the stuff. And earned something, too.

Then I thought about the stuff I would have bought if I didn’t make this cloud dough. A tub of kinetic sand is roughly PhP450 for 2lbs. 4kg of flour costs maybe a quarter of that? Maths are not my strong suit: 1kg of flour is PhP40 at its most expensive. So for that amount, I can produce maybe 10lbs of cloud dough? Plus the extra amount for a bit of any type of food grade oil–coconut oil may be the cheapest cooking oil locally at PhP450 for 1 gallon. The mixture is 8:1 flour to oil.

If my mental estimates are correct, this means for PhP450 of cloud dough, I freak out less because a) it’s safe for our dogs to eat up, b) it’s safe for the kids to eat up, and c) PhP450 did not just go down the drain because the kids did not just throw it all out onto the walkway and I can’t sweep it back up because of all the icky stuff that’s gone in it.

Does this justify using food for play, though? I still don’t really know. But even with the economic considerations, including waste of food potential, factored in, there is one undeniable fact: he has played with the 8 cups of cloud dough every day since Sunday and loved every messy bit of fun. I don’t think I would trade that for anything.




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