I can hardly believe that the leaves are already changing colors around here!  Eeek - fall is on its way.  One of our favorite things about fall is all of the delicious smells - particularly the spices.  Even as an adult, I find it fascinating that the ground spices we typically use in cooking come from such strange looking whole spices.  I thought we'd combine a favorite material (playdough) with the exotic shapes and wonderful scents of whole spices for this activity.

Whole spices can be quite pricey if you buy them by the jar, but I've found that any grocery store with a large bulk section tends to carry all of them in bulk.  Since you only need a small sample of each type, it ends up only being a few dollars to get a wide variety of whole spices.  If you'd rather not use whole spices or can't locate them, this activity would be just as fun with small sample bowls full of a variety of ground spices from your spice cabinet.  

I provided X and S with one small bag each of whole cinnamon, whole nutmeg, whole cardamom, whole cloves, and whole allspice.  S had a lot of fun sniffing the scents in each bag.  X didn't notice the scents as much, but he enjoyed investigating all the strange shapes.

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Next, using a mortar and pestle, I let the kids grind up the spices.  S immediately noticed how much stronger the scent got when we broke down the whole spices.  If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you could use a ziploc bag and have an adult use a hammer to crush them.

X didn't have a huuuuuge amount of success at grounding the spices down, but he did have a ton of fun trying.

S was much more efficient, but there were still bits of shell - particularly the cardamom and the cinnamon sticks were a bit pokey.  My kids didn't mind and were so proud of smashing the pieces themselves they weren't interested in enlisting my help to ground them more finely.  If your kiddo might be bothered by poky bits, you may need to follow along behind them with a mortar and pestle or hammer and baggie to ground the items more finely.  S did allow me to demonstrate grating the cinnamon sticks for her, but that was all the help I was allowed to offer, hahaha.

After the kids had assembled a big pile of smashed spices, they began to incorporate them into a plain batch of our favorite cook playdough.

They had a lot of fun mixing, rolling, and pretend baking with the spiced playdough.  And it had such a beautiful marbled appearance at the end!

The kids both really enjoyed taking the lead determining which spices would go into the playdough and how much of each.  They also had a blast breaking down the whole spices.  It was a fun way to get ready for fall!  Our playdough will keep for 4 to 6 months at room temperature in a sealed container.

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All activities here are activities I feel are safe for my own children.  As your child's parents/guardians, you will need to decide what you feel is safe for your family.  I always encourage contacting your child's pediatrician for guidance if you are not sure about the safety/age appropriateness of an activity. All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision.  Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies).  Observe caution and safety at all times.  The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.


  1. My 8 yr. old granddaughter and I had a blast coloring rice for her cousin, my 2 yr. old grandson. We were going to color 2 or 3 bags of rice and leave the rest for him to have the experience with us. We had a 25# bag. We colored 7 bags! We couldn't stop. Each color was more vibrant than the other. We did leave a bit for him to do when he comes over so he can experience coloring the rice. Now we have a large tub filled with rainbow colored rice with objects buried. We saved some of the rice, to use in rice creations, in separate baggies. Thanks for the inspiring ideas.

    1. Oh I love it!!!! So glad you all had fun - what a fun project with grandma!!!! :) :) :) Thank you for taking the time to leave such a sweet comment.

    2. Now I know what we will do as a present for our girls' grandma. ;-) Thank you, Sue.

  2. Hi!
    What a great one! We used to do coloured playdough, but not flavoured. We have a nice memory at home where the pair is one card and one small bottle. Find the right card which corresponds to what you smell. :-)
    Your spice playdough is a must-do, especially with your autumnal spices!
    Many thanks!


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