If you know me well, you’ll know that I’m pretty much obsessed with play dough. It’s my go-to activity for when my kids are bored or when we are entertaining other kids. It started out as a fun activity to keep my then 1 and 2-year-olds busy, but over the years I’ve become even more passionate about play dough and here’s why I encourage you to incorporate this activity in your home.
It’s a great way to teach your kids how to transition from one activity to another. It has a calming effect on them (This has made a huge difference in dealing with sensory issues in my boy) or if you simply need half an hour of quiet time, it keeps them busy.
But what are the benefits of playing with play dough?
1. Fine motor skill development: Strengthening and developing muscle tone in those little hands by squishing, rolling, pushing and squashing. These are the same muscles they will be using to hold a pencil, cut with scissors and manipulate zippers and buttons.
2. Creativity and imagination: The possibilities are endless – allow your kids the freedom to create whatever they want! Even if they mix the colors (GASP!!) Everyone is different and has different ideas; let them express those thoughts by bringing their creations to life. Provide them with a wide variety of goodies to use with their play dough to encourage the use of their imagination. There is no right or wrong way. Add some buttons, a cutter, rolling pins, beads, plastic army men, Lego men, straws, blocks etc.
My 7 year old STILL plays with play dough, simply because I add some fun accessories. You can encourage play at any age and I think kids need to play for as long as possible. The older they are the more detailed the creations become.
3.Calming and therapeutic: Simply sitting and playing quietly while rolling a piece of play dough is a very calming and soothing activity. Think of it as play dough “stress” balls. Easing tension, releasing extra energy, improving focus and concentration. I have seen the most amazing results with my very busy, very active 3 year old boy – I’ll even add some lavender essential oils to the dough and have encouraged a 20 minute session before bedtime to help relax and calm him down.
4. Develops hand-eye co-ordination: Tracking the movement of their hands stimulates co-ordination. The discipline and focus is essential for reading and writing!
5.Social skills: Playing with others, like siblings and friends, is a fantastic opportunity for developing social skills. It involves sharing, talking, discussing, problem solving and planning with others in mind. Encourage your children to tell the rest of the group what they are making.
6.Encourages independence: When they sit and create a masterpiece all on their own, you can see how proud they are of their creation. Thinking of a concept and then creating that encourages independence and a sense of achievement.
7.Language, literacy and numeracy development: Adding some alphabet or number cookie cutters creates an opportunity to teach spelling or counting. Rolling out some dough, measuring the different pieces and comparing different sizes assists cognizance. Ask your child questions while they are playing, this is great for teaching them to multitask and listen or communicate while focused on something else. Encouraging your child to explain to you what they are making helps build their vocabulary.
8.FUN!!! You’ve heard the saying, “Laughter is the Best medicine”. It really is. Let kids be kids, when they have fun, they LAUGH. Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts moods, diminishes pain and is a great stress reliever. It also promotes group bonding. So why not join in and make some of your own creations with your kids. You may find yourself benefitting from missed youth!
All 4 my kids (from18m to 7years) love it and use it almost daily. Make it easily accessible and available, it will likely encourage your children to have open-ended play. But have some rules! Ours are: It stays on the table & It gets put back in the container when done.
So, why not go ahead and make your own batch? I cannot promise you that it won’t end up all over your floor and even your carpet! But I can promise you it will be great fun and your kids will be happy you did!
Here’s the best recipe I know!
- 1-cup flour
- 1-cup water
- 2 tsp. cream of tartar
- ¼ cup salt
- 1 Tbsp. oil Food coloring
- Mix the flour, cream of tartar and salt in a medium pot
- Add the water, oil and food coloring (gel works best – but any will do)
- Stir over a low/medium heat for about 3 minutes.
- Mixture begins to thicken and form a ball
- Remove from heat and put dough on a plate to cool
- After cooling (15 minutes) knead dough
- Store in an airtight container or bag
If you’ve enjoyed this post, please leave a comment! And if you do make a batch, please tag me in your posts. I would love to see your little treasures having fun!