Invitation to Play Ice Cream Parlor

by Meghan

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Last week we had beautiful, perfect pre-summer weather: blue clear skies, sun for days, and that temperature that is warm enough for water play, but not so hot you are melting.  I promised the girls a pool day in the backyard, and of course, that morning, Lil’ M woke up a snotty mess with a fever.  Time for Plan B – Invitation to Play Ice Cream Parlor!  Having seen a few sources of inspiration, I’d been plotting this activity for a while, and did my preggo duty and emptied 3 pints of gelato for storage containers.  I decided our unexpected sick day was the perfect day for it!

Invitation to Play Ice Cream Parlor

Invitation to Play Ice Cream Parlor

A few weeks back, I stumbled upon this amazing Pretend Play: Preschool Ice Cream Store from Spell Outloud.  I knew I had to try my own version because the girls would both love it… as you may have noticed from my We Love Weekend‘s posts, as soon as our neighborhood creamery opens for the summer, we are excellent customers.  When Lil’ M woke up sick last week and I cancelled our planned pool day, Big M’s next request – “Ok, how about a project?”  Having done my pregnant duty and finished the last of the gelato pints the night before, I knew setting up our Play Ice Cream Parlor would be perfect!

Making the Playdough

I always use the same playdough recipe (see below), but for the different flavors here, I decided to try a few others.  I will say, after trying two new recipes, I still love my traditional, basic recipe.  It is the easiest and least messy to make, and I think the end result is the best.  Each of these recipes made the perfect quantity to fit in my pint-sized containers.

Vanilla Ice Cream Playdough

For this, I used my favorite, basic playdough recipe and just added a few teaspoons of vanilla for scent.

Basic Play Dough Recipe

1 cup water
1 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
2 TBSP vegetable oil
1/2 TBSP cream of tartar
2 tsp vanilla extract for scent


Pour all ingredients into a sauce pan over low heat.  Stir together.  It will appear lumpy at first, but will smooth and solidify over the heat as you continue to stir.

When it pulls away from the sides of the pan without sticking, remove to cool surface.  Knead together until smooth.

Chocolate Ice Cream Playdough

For the chocolate playdough, I followed the Chocolate Playdough recipe from Pre-Kinders that Spell Outloud recommended.  While it came out smelling amazing, it was very crumbly to start, and required some decent kneading to solidify.  I also added a little more liquid to help hold it together.  Eventually, it ended up alright, and the smell is fabulous – so much so, Lil’ M kept trying to eat it!

Play Ice Cream Parlor - Chocolate Playdough

Strawberry Ice Cream Playdough

For my strawberry ice cream, I wanted to test out one more recipe – and I had strawberry jello on hand.  I did a little research and found this DIY Jello Playdough recipe from Modern Parents, Messy Kids.  The final texture and scent is definitely fantastic, but it took a lot longer to come together than my standard recipe, and it required kneading in additional flour to remove all the stickiness.  Overall, if I did this project again, I would stick with my traditional recipe and use Kool-Aid and Extracts to get my colors and flavors.

Setting Up the Play Ice Cream Parlor

With the play ice cream complete, the rest of our supplies for the parlor were fairly simple:


Assorted flavored ice cream playdough
Ice cream scoop
Small bowls, plastic cones
Dollar Store Dip Tray
Sequins, pom poms, cotton balls, pony beads for “toppings”
Mats or trays for easy clean-up

Cost: Less than $10

Prep-Time: 30-45 minutes to make 3 batches of playdough

Clean-Up Time: Less than 10 minutes

I filled our Dollar Store Dip Tray, my new favorite project accessory, with an assortment of topping options for the girls’ play ice cream parlor.  The favorites were definitely the ‘sprinkle’ sequins.  You can find sequins in the craft section at the Dollar Store, if you don’t already have any.

Play Ice Cream Parlor - Decoration Tray

For ice cream containers, I took two plastic ice cream cones from a play ice cream set we have, and two small plastic bowls the girls typically use for snacks and dips!  The ice cream cones were definitely the fan favorites.

Can I take your order?

As soon as I set it all down for them to play, Big M immediately assumed her new favorite role, playing waitress, and asked what kind of ice cream I wanted.  First up, a scoop of vanilla with whipped cream and a cherry on top!

Play Ice Cream Parlor - Vanilla with Cherry

Then, she said she wanted to make some cones… she struggled at first with the ice scream scoop, but once I showed her how to hold it, she took over!  I doled out some scoops for Lil’ M to create with as well.

They played in their ice cream parlor forever… assembling and disassembling ice cream orders, over and over again.  Lil’ M moved on after about 30 minutes, an eternity for her, and Big M only called it quits when I said we had to clear off the table to get ready for lunch!

Good news is the play ice cream is stored for re-use in the pint-sized gelato jars, and the toppings are still sorted and ready to go for the next round of Ice Cream Parlor!  I think next time, I might throw out some cupcake tins and liners and make it a Cupcake Shoppe!

Invitation to Play Ice Cream Parlor 2

Have you ever played with play ice cream?  What’s your favorite playdough activity?  For more fun Imaginative Play ideas, be sure to follow our board on Pinterest!

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Ali Gilbert June 10, 2015 - 10:47 pm

I love this idea- especially the toppings! Thanks for sharing on #ToddlerFunFriday

PGPBMeghan June 10, 2015 - 11:21 pm

The toppings were definitely the main attraction!

My Bored Toddler June 10, 2015 - 7:01 am

I always love your invitation to play ideas but this is one of my favorites! Thanks for sharing on #ToddlerFunFriday

PGPBMeghan June 10, 2015 - 11:11 am

Thanks – it’s been a favorite of the girls too!

Melissa French, The More With Less Mom June 7, 2015 - 1:54 pm

I’m going to have to go get some gelato so we have containers. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Thanks for posting. Hello from We Love Weekends.

PGPBMeghan June 7, 2015 - 8:09 pm

I found those at Whole Foods… and I considered it my daily dairy serving 🙂

Nicola June 5, 2015 - 3:18 pm

My kids love this kind of activity. This will be perfect to do in our summer break!

PGPBMeghan June 5, 2015 - 3:41 pm

I hope they enjoy! We’d love to see how yours turns out.


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