Eek, folks might start thinking I'm actually *reliable* or something... ;) Yes, just a couple of days later, and I am providing the tutorial I suggested I "might" get around to!
Suitable for anyone over the age of about one year (ie any toddler who can pour liquids from one container to another can do it - even if they spill), and you can use your own tablewear. The only thing you will need to buy specially is an undyed silk scarf from a craft store or online specialist (I recommend rainbowsilks.co.uk). Oh, and food colouring, if you are like me and have a cupboard full of baking ingredients up to and including freeze-dried raspberries and edible glitter but never seem to have any food dyes...
Set up: One small cereal bowl. One small glass. Two shot glasses or small ramekins or similar. White vinegar. Food colouring in two primary colours (these MUST NOT be "natural" food colouring, as many will not work as dye - alternatively you could use half a sachet of kool-aid in place of each food colouring, dilute sparingly with water). You will also need either a standard saucepan or a microwave to set your colour.
Put vinegar into the cup, and food colouring in the shot glasses.
First, take your silk and shake it out by a corner to see how big it is. This one is 90 by 90cm. (Yes, I borrowed this kid, she isn't one of mine!)
Then scrunch it up into a tiny ball and push it down into the bowl. It won't fit!
Let your child add the small cup full of vinegar to the silk and push down with their fingers until the whole silk is wet.
Add a teeny bit of water or vinegar to dilute the food colouring in the shot glasses if you want. The less you add, the more concentrated the colour you will get, but the more mottled the silk will be because the water helps it spread out. Give these to your small assistant to pour wherever they like (hopefully mainly on the silk).
Take your bowl to the microwave and count to sixty as it cooks. Alternatively, lift the disk of silk very carefully into a clean pan and cook for about two minutes (don't let it dry out or it will burn)!
Tip the silk into the sink and run a little cold water onto it before touching (it will be hot!) and rinse. Hang out to dry. Tadaa!
NOTES: this tutorial produces generally light-coloured mottled silks; the more food colouring you use, the brighter you will get! I recommend primary colours because it is impossible to use only two and still get brown, and my children are experts at mixing brown (paint, dye, you name it). Gel food colourings give brighter shades than liquid but either are fine, just remember to dilute your gel. Silks will be colourfast, but not lightfast in the long term, so avoid lengthy exposure to bright sunlight (or simply re-dye every year until your silk wears out)!
Remember to keep silk play away from open flame, and supervise children when playing as a tightly knotted silk is a strangulation risk. Use silks for dance, dressing up, running around in summer breezes, setting up story scenes and landscapes for creative play, doll blankets, bandages when playing hospitals/vets, and seasonal displays. (And you will most likely think up many more uses, too.)