- Play dough provides a sensory experience that helps to develop fine motor skills, ease tension and improve imagination, aiding early childhood development in a playful way.
- Playing with play dough is a very kinaesthetic activity that is good for the muscles, joints and bones in your child’s arms and hands. Working with this substance allows them to explore their own movement and build up their abilities.
Making play dough is the perfect way to introduce your child to simple skills like measuring, counting and following a series of instructions. It can also improve communication and problem-solving skills.. This recipe is our favourite for making playdough.
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How much do you really know about Play Dough?
Play dough is one of the most fun and versatile materials for young children to play with, even if it can get a little messy at times. Play dough provides a sensory experience that helps to develop fine motor skills, ease tension and improve imagination, aiding early childhood development in a playful way.
How Does Play Dough Help A Child's Cognitive Development?
Play dough is a therapeutic material that will always be a great learning tool for early childhood education. There is no technique for using play dough, so it allows children to explore their creativity without being worried about doing something wrong. Playing with play dough offers a number of benefits for children, some of which are listed below.
Develop Fine Motor Skills
Moulding play dough is a great way of building up a child’s fine motor skills because it requires them to use all the muscles in their fingers and hands.
When playing with play dough, children roll, flatten, twist, squish, pinch, knead and pound the substance. They can also use extra utensils like rolling pins and cookie cutters.
All these actions help fine motor development, so that when a child goes to school they will be able to perform new tasks - such as holding a pencil - with ease.
Playing with play dough in a group can be great for children because it encourages them to talk about what they’re doing. They might talk about what they’re making and why or how they’re going to do it. Words like roll, pinch and flatten will also be added to their vocabulary.
Working with play dough encourages children to use their imagination and be creative because there is no obvious end result. There’s no answer, solution or goal they have to achieve - they’re free to play and explore. This is great for children because it promotes independence and improves their self-esteem.
This activity also helps them bring to life images and ideas that they’ve thought of in their head, which can help them be more detail-oriented and improve their symbolic thinking.
Enhances Numeracy and Literacy Skills
Play dough can be used as a more typical educational experience if the children are asked to shape play dough into letters and numbers. They could even play word games like hangman. This helps them picture, form and recognise letters and numbers before they are asked to start writing them with a pencil.
You could also try following a recipe for making play dough with them, to help younger children begin to understand measurements.
Lengthens Attention Span
Playing with play dough requires a child to sit and concentrate for a period of time. Usually, they will be interested and invested in what they’re doing, so they will be more likely to stay focused and not get distracted. This helps children develop and improve their attention span.
Promotes Scientific Concepts
Basic scientific concepts, such as adding water to a substance to change the texture, can be introduced through play dough. Ingredients like sand, lotion and beads can also be used to change the texture.
You could also use play dough to shape a volcano and then teach your child about the eruption process.
Provides Relaxation and Therapeutic Value
Play dough is calming and relaxing to play with. The very act of playing with play dough works in a similar way to a stress ball, reducing stress and relieving excess energy.
Working with play dough is also usually a quiet activity, so it can be great for children who feel anxious during noisy playtimes.
Teaches Socioemotional Skills
Working with play dough around others encourages children to share resources, ask politely to use utensils and talk about their creative process with others. Children might also begin to help one another when they get stuck with their creations.
The Sensory Benefits of Playing with Play Dough
Playing with play dough is a very kinaesthetic activity that is good for the muscles, joints and bones in your child’s arms and hands. Working with this substance allows them to explore their own movement and build up their abilities.
Strengthens the Hands
All the actions involved with shaping playdough help to build strength in the hand muscles. This includes cutting, squashing, kneading, flattening, pulling, squeezing and twisting.
You can also get play dough in thicker consistencies that make it more difficult to manipulate, which is great for strengthening muscles.
Demonstrates Proprioceptive Skills
All of the actions and movements used when manipulating play dough are great for putting the right amount of pressure on joints. This improves a child’s ability to use their hands without consciously thinking about what they’re doing.
Playing with play dough can help to relieve stress and reduce anxiety. The action of squeezing and moulding the substance is grounding and calming and the time spent focusing on it is therapeutic.
Explores the Tactile Sensory System
Using play dough allows children to explore the feeling of different textures and consistencies. It also allows children to experiment with utensils like scissors and cutters to make different shapes and designs.
Playing with play dough is a tactile activity that encourages hands-on exploration.
Improves Olfactory System
The smell of play dough is pretty recognisable on its own, but you can also purchase play dough with added scents to tap into your child’s sense of smell.
Play Dough And Loose Parts
Play dough gives children a great opportunity to experiment with adding and mixing other elements and textures, including:
- Sticks and stones
- Dry pasta
- Glitter and sequins
- Toy cars
- Bottle caps
- Muffin tins
Playing around with these extra elements is a great way to increase creativity and improve hand eye coordination.
How To Make Play Dough
Making play dough is the perfect way to introduce your child to simple skills like measuring, counting and following a series of instructions. It can also improve communication and problem-solving skills.
This recipe is our favourite for making playdough.
How To Enhance Play Dough
You can purchase ready-made play dough in lots of different colours with different scents added. These elements help to enhance a child’s sensory experience when playing with play dough.
If you’re making your own play dough, you can also add colours and scents to the recipe by adding ingredients like:
- Cocoa powder
- Food colouring
- Essential oils
Experimenting with these additional ingredients could make the process of making play dough more creative and enjoyable, giving you a different result each time.
Playing with play dough might be underestimated as a simple, fun activity to keep children occupied, but it actually has a variety of different benefits for a child’s development.
Parents should encourage their children to be creative and imaginative when playing with play dough to help them get the most out of the activity.
Here at Gowrie NSW, we provide hands-on sensory, creative and exploratory playdough activities at all our Early Education and Care Centres. Find your nearest centre today.
Published 7th July 2022