written by: Kara Bietz
• edited by: Tania Cowling
• updated: 11/17/2014
Making soap with your preschoolers will not only provide a valuable science and math lesson, but can also be included in a thematic unit about healthy living. The process of making soap may seem like an ambitious undertaking, but that's not so! Clean up with these simple soap recipes!
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Some Simple Soap Recipes
You will not need to special order any fancy materials for these preschool-friendly soap recipes. Try them both!
3 Cups of Soap Flakes (Ivory Snow is an example)
1 to 1-1/2 cups water
A few drops of essential oil (such as lavender)
Mix the soap flakes with the water in a large bowl. Add the water slowly so that the mixture is the consistency of play dough.
Add a few drops of food coloring.
Add a few drops of lavender oil.
Coat each child's hands with a small amount of vegetable oil and allow them to manipulate the mixture with their hands into fun shapes or into molds (more about that later).
Allow the soap shapes to dry overnight.
Melted Glycerin Soap
Several bars of differently colored glycerin soap
Microwave safe bowl
Allow children to choose which colors of glycerin they would like to combine together to create their own bar of soap.
Cut the glycerin into one inch-chunks and combine the chunks in a bowl.
Microwave the glycerin chunks until it melts into a clay or play dough consistency. Stir with a wooden spoon.
Be very careful when handling the melted glycerin, as it can be quite hot!
This type of soap is ideally poured into molds.
You will now have the medium necessary to create any soap shapes your preschoolers can dream up! Let the creativity begin...
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Now that you have created the basic soap, it is time for the fun part! If your preschoolers are planning to give the soap as a gift, you may want to purchase a few candy or soap molds so that they can create fun shapes with the soap. These molds can be purchased in most craft supply stores and come in a number of different sizes and themes including sea shells, fun shapes and favorite characters.
If you are working with the simple soap recipe, children can also choose to mold the soap into any shape they desire. Encourage children to think about the recipient of the soap gift and to choose a shape they think that person would enjoy. Some simple ideas include a snowman, a flower or a ball. Children will be very proud of their creation and the fact that they completed the project on their own.
If you choose to use molds be sure to lightly grease them before placing the soap in them. This will help you pop the soap from the mold once it dries. You can use cooking spray or a light coating of vegetable oil to grease the molds. The soap will need to dry at least overnight before it will be able to be handled, wrapped up or given as a gift. Be sure the soap is completely hardened and dry before attempting to handle it. Touching it prematurely may cause it to crumble or break.
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More Soapy Fun
Now that you have successfully created soap in fun shapes with your preschool class, it is time to extend that learning! Children have already received a healthy dose of science, math and fine motor learning by helping you measure, mix, pour and create the soap recipes. Give children a chance to make suggestions, while you are creating the soap recipes, of other scents or colors that would make the soap unique. Try peppermint, almond or coconut extract in your soap recipe.
As a large group activity, ask children to brainstorm all of the things soap is used for. Some of the suggestions you may hear include washing hands, dishes and clothing. You may also suggest a discussion of the times during the day it is important to wash your hands with soap. Have children draw simple directions for hand washing and post them near all of the classroom sinks. Be sure children understand that washing their hands regularly is the best way to prevent germs from getting into their bodies and making them sick.
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Conclusion and References
Give some of these simple preschool soap recipes a go and extend your healthy living theme! Children will be able to complete most of the tasks necessary for creating the simple soap and molding it into fun shapes for gift giving or home use. Try using well-greased candy molds to create fancier shapes with the melted glycerin soap. These soaps will make a terrific gift for families!
Mayesky, Mary. Creative Activities for Young Children. Delmar Publishers (1995).
Cryer, Debby, Thelma Harms and Adele Richardson Ray. Active Learning For Fours. Addison-Wesley (1996).