Love it or hate it, you can’t ignore the fact that playdough offers so many wonderful learning opportunities for young children and is probably one of my favorite tools in helping promote their development.
We have the playdough out nearly every day here and I love to come up with fun new playdough set ups that inspire my little ones to get creative and engage them in some fun sensory play.
What do children learn when playing with playdough?
Observing children using playdough is just fascinating. It’s something that multiple ages can join in with, even babies by making them a taste safe version such as a basic bread dough.
It covers so many areas of early learning all through play such as:
Communication and language skills
Talking with children about what they have made is a great way to encourage language development as well as learn new words such as describing the texture or color of the playdough. It’s also a fun group activity allowing children to communicate with each other when they’re busy creating.
Playdough can help to expand attention span, we’ve sometimes had the playdough out for over an hour at a time – who knew toddlers they could sit still so long?
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Personal, social and emotional development
There’s no right or wrong way to play with playdough which can help to develop self esteem as well as encourage cooperative play as children learn to share and play together.
Playdough is also a great tool for calming angry or anxious children. There’s something so therapeutic about having a good squish of some playdough.
Those little hands are constantly working away when using playdough which helps to give those fine motor skills a workout and also develop hand-eye coordination through things such as playdough cutters or rolling pins
Practicing early mark making and encouraging children to notice the effect of marks they have made in the dough is one of the precursors to writing. Don’t forget older children can read the labels on food packaging when you’re making it together.
Counting, sorting, making patterns and shapes, playdough is an amazing way to practice many early maths skills.
Creativity Development through play-doh
It builds imagination and creativity as playdough can be anything and it is more often than not used in a compleltey different way to how I set it out. Playdough is often brought into other elements of children’s play such as food in the play kitchen or a cave for toy animals.
Watching what happens when you mix the ingredients together and how they change….as well as what happens to it when it gets left out for to long!
Understanding the world
Using playdough to observe celebrations and festivals is a fun way for toddlers and preschoolers to begin to learn about the communities and world around them. By keeping it simple such as green playdough for St Patricks Day or Christmas, red and gold playdough for Chinese New Year, pink playdough for Valentine’s Day or white playdough for winter.
…..and most importantly playdough is fun!
Homemade playdough recipes
There are so many different playdough recipes out there and over the years I’ve tried and tested a lot of them. Some with success and others with complete disaster. Eventually, after much trial and error, I nailed a full proof no cook playdough recipe that works for me every time and now there’s now holding me back. I probably make a new batch monthly and store in a zip loc bag when we’re not using it.
Or for a different type of playdough I use cornflour and conditioner which makes the softest playdough ever but isn’t as easy to mould. .
My 4 year old loves to help make it and has been assisting me since she was 18 months old. She can now pretty much make it on her own (apart from handling the boiling water).
Setting up a playdough invitation to play
Sometimes just dumping the playdough on the table with some cutters and rollers is enough, but sometimes it’s fun to create some more thoughtful playdough set ups in the form of “invitations to play”
<image: playdough invite>
An invitation to play involves setting up resources and materials in an attractive way that allow children to create their own open-ended play and let it take them in whichever direction they fancy. It can be as simple as laying out the playdough in a different way or new location and definitely does not mean spending lots of money. Invitations to play encourage open-ended play, build upon children’s imagination and allow for plenty of child-led learning opportunities.
I have several different trays that I use for playdough that are mostly dip trays and I add to them loose parts such as buttons, pom poms, pebbles, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, straws, toy animals or people or anything I can get my hands on. I try to include as many different textures as possible.
I really enjoy creating playdough and using natural ingredients such as this Dandelion playdough or calming Lavender Playdough or sometimes I create a batch of plain playdouygh and add to it things found from out nature walks such as pine cones, leaves and conkers etc.
Clare is a mum of 2 and a childminder and can be found at Clare’s Little Tots. Everything on the blog has been made, baked or played with by either her own children or the children she cares for which range from babies, toddlers and preschoolers through to school aged children.
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