If I had to list the top ten items necessary for an enriched learning environment, play dough would definitely be on it. It might even be my number one. (Well, maybe books, music, blocks . . . but, today’s post is about play dough.) I’m posting this during the Christmas shopping season to give another option for a fabulous Christmas gift. Some play dough and utensils in a sturdy container would make a great gift.
I’m sure you have often had the best intentions to offer play dough at home but for some reason it just doesn’t make it into the play list. I know. It can be messy. But there are ways you can control the mess. Let’s go ahead and talk about that so we can get the “messy” fears out-of-the-way (or at least lessen them a little.)
As an adult, let me just say, I do not prefer the store-bought play dough. Um, no, actually I can’t stand the store-bought play dough. The two things it has going for it are the bright colors and the smell. (I still love that smell.) Let’s face it though, it is fairly stiff and VERY crumbly (read messy.) All of the play dough we use at preschool is homemade. It is pliable, keeps for a long time (if tightly sealed), and can be made with a variety of scent, color and even texture. Here is the recipe Ms. Michelle uses.
A little prep in the set-up is another crucial element for less-messy play. We always use our play dough on plastic trays. At home I would use a shallow cookie sheet or a large rectangle lid. A child sized table would be helpful for children to be able to work the dough with more control (this equals less mess.) The right flooring underneath is important. PLAY DOUGH IS NOT A CARPETS’ FRIEND. (Hint: If it does get into the carpet just let it dry completely and then scrape at it with the side of a scissor blade. It will should flake right out.) Smooth floors that can be easily swept are best. As with carpet, it is easiest to just let play dough sit till it hardens and then sweep it up. When the weather is nice consider taking the play to a table outside. If you don’t have these options a plastic shower curtain or vinyl tablecloth under the whole play area should work well to collect any dropped pieces.
Now, for my campaign to promote play dough play. While working with play dough children support the development of many growth areas.
- Motor development: Hand strength and fine motor control (These are the skills children will later need when learning to write.) Control for tool use (such as scissors, mashers, rollers, pizza cutters, etc.)
- Creative expression: Imagination is stimulated (Even toddlers quickly pretend to make cakes, cookies or pizza.) Project planning is evident as a child makes one thing then adds to it or alters it to make another. (This is the same skill valued in project planners, architects, advertising executives, etc. )
- Social/Emotional growth: Social interactions (There is often a need for give-and-take, for example when sharing tools.) Self Esteem (Children feel pride and competence while making creations.)
- Speech and language (Children talk about what they are doing or what they are making.) Language expands (Finding the right words like squish, pull, roll, flatten, etc., positional words or phrases such as on top of, side by side, in front of, etc.)
- Math thinking: Size and space understandings (Such as making a worm that is longer, shorter, fatter.) Number and counting skills (I have 5 cookies!)
- Sensory experience: Texture awareness (Adding beans to the play dough makes it bumpy.) Emotional release (Touch and play with sensory materials can calm children and release tension)
- Literacy exposure: Using text (Children see you reading a recipe) Letter recognition (My worm is making a letter A. Use letter shaped cookie cutters.)
Creative tools will expand the play. Here is a list of items you can use:
rolling pins * scissors (regular kids scissors work great) * pizza rollers * kitchen tools such as potato mashers, whisks, melon ball tools, etc. * cookie cutters * straws * birthday candles * popsicle sticks * pipe cleaners * any item that would make an imprint (such as those wood alphabet blocks * Mr. Potato Head pieces * googly eyes * buttons * toothpicks . . . . .
The last picture here is of my granddaughter. I couldn’t help sharing it. We had a wonderful tea party using play dough to celebrate her baby’s birthday.
Here is a great blog post with a lot of other ideas for expanding the traditional play dough play.
Take a look back at the first sentence of this post and you will notice I mention the importance of play dough for kids. I almost used the words “young children” or “preschoolers.” I specifically decided to use the word ‘kids.” I did that because I believe that children of all ages (by that I mean ages 1 – 100) can also enjoy all the benefits I’ve talked about above.. So, grab some dough and some “tools” and start squishing, pulling, rolling and CREATING!