The Benefits of Playing with Play Dough

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WE ALL KNOW THAT PLAY DOUGH IS FUN AND POPULAR WITH YOUNG CHILDREN, BUT APART FROM MAKING A MESS WHAT IS IT REALLY GOOD FOR? HERE ARE THE FABULOUS BENEFITS OF ALLOWING KIDS TO PLAY WITH PLAY DOUGH AND THE MANY LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES THAT HAPPEN ALONG THE WAY!

Using play dough (or in fact any type of dough) with young children is beneficial in so many ways. Here are some ideas of how fabulous it is, divided into the areas of development that it helps:

Fine motor development:

The malleable properties of play dough make it fun for investigation and exploration as well as secretly building up strength in all the tiny hand muscles and tendons, making them ready for pencil and scissor control later on.

As part of simple, tactile play it can be squashed, squeezed, rolled, flattened, chopped, cut, scored, raked, punctured, poked and shredded! Each one of these different actions aids fine motor development in a different way, not to mention hand-eye co ordination and general concentration. And as soon as you add another element to it, the list of benefits and creative play possibilities continues to grow!

Poking in objects and pulling them out of play dough strengthens hand muscles and co-ordination

These are the materials that we have to hand ready for any play dough free-play session. We keep these stored in jam jars in the cupboard and the girls can request any or all of these to add to the dough.

Having a wide range of additional extras to use while playing extends the investigation and play possibilities endlessly. Poking in sticks provides a challenge and a new physical skill. Squeezing through a garlic press leads to wonder and amazement at seeing it change shape, as well as using a gross motor movement to accomplish it. Sticking in spaghetti requires a delicate hand and can lead to threading and stacking pasta shapes or beads over the top.

Providing boxes and containers with various shaped compartments can lead to cooking play, sorting, matching, ordering and counting, all naturally and without pressure to learn.

By providing objects from nature with a wide range of textures, colours and shapes, children can have multi-sensory experiences and engage with the world around them in a whole new way.

List of additional extras needed to create a play dough free play kit!

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but all of these elements can be used to create plenty of exciting, open-ended play times:

  • toy creatures
  • straws
  • rolling pins, plastic knives, scissors, pizza cutters
  • cupcake cases in different sizes
  • coloured and natural feathers
  • pine cones, sticks, bark, leaves
  • muffin tins, egg cartons, chocolate boxes, small cups and shot glasses
  • alphabet, number and shape cookie cutters
  • pasta shapes
  • shells
  • buttons
  • glass pebbles
  • toy vehicles
  • wooden letters and numbers
  • fabric, netting and ribbons
  • match sticks and lolly sticks

Using leaves and herbs from the garden with some pasta and spices to make play dough pizzas!

Imagination and Creativity:

As soon as you introduce open ended play items to add to the mix, play dough becomes the perfect medium for numerous types of imaginative play and can represent so many things in a child’s eyes.

A jar of candles and cupcakes cases leads naturally to birthday party role-play, counting out candles and singing! Glass pebbles can lead to sea-side imaginative small world play with story telling about sea creatures and mermaids!

It can be chocolates and sweets in a sweet shop, cakes and bread in a bakery, grass and mud in a garden centre, sand or ice cream in a beach scene, soil, pebbles, ice or snow at the zoo/ jungle/ farm/ ocean and so on! The list is as endless as a child’s imagination!

List of additional flavours and textures to add to play dough:

  • Scents and Colours
  • cocoa powder
  • ginger
  • cinnamon
  • turmeric
  • fruit juices
  • food colouring
  • food flavouring
  • essential oils
  • kool aid
  • paint
  • textures
  • rice
  • cous cous
  • coriander seeds
  • poppy seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • sawdust
  • sand
  • pebbles
  • rock salt
  • tiny pasta
  • glitter, glitter glue
  • sequins

Play dough sweet shop imaginative play with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla scented play dough!

Calming and soothing:

As any adult who has played with dough can tell you, the effects of all that squeezing and pummelling are great for stress relief and can feel extremely therapeutic! Little children can struggle to express their emotions and using dough while talking and singing can really help that process.

How about adding some essential oils to create the ultimate aromatherapy experiencefor little ones too!

Maths and Literacy development:

In more focused play, play dough can be used as a fantastic way to practise letter and number work. Children can form letters of the alphabet, spell out their own name, make numbers, form 2D and 3D shapes, compare lengths/ thicknesses/ weightscount out rolled balls to match numeral cards, match and sort by colour and SO many more ideas too!

Creating letter impressions in play dough by pushing in wooden letters, then decorating with beads!

Science and Discovery:

The actual act of making the play dough together with your child can lead to lots of questioning and prediction skills. Here we have some solid materials (flour, salt etc) to which we are going to add some liquids (oil, water.) What do you think will happen? What can we make? The child gets to explore and observe the changing state of materials in a hands-on way, and be filled with wonder as the bowl of unrelated ingredients comes together to form a sticky then smooth and squishy ball of dough! We often take these things for granted, but in the eyes and hands of a child that’s quite some transformation!

Following a recipe and instructions, counting out cups, stirring and mixing and just being able to spend time on a collaborative project with an adult are all meaningful and important experiences too!

What an incredible substance play dough is! Let’s all start using it as part of our daily play and learning times with the young children in our care!

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If you would like to know more about how Kingsgate leads the way in Early Childhood Education, please contact us:

+603-7782 4925 | info@kingsgate.edu.my | @kingsgateinternationalschool