How to … Boost your child’s development AND get some moments to yourself!
I get it… I’m a Mum too! Play dough can sometimes feel like it belongs in the too hard basket so that it can’t stick to anything in the house and leave dried up crumbs on the floor.
BUT (yes, there’s a but! Stay with me!) there are SO many positives that your child can get from playing with play dough. PLUS, it’s often one of those activities that keeps kids busy for quite a while (your version of quite a while is likely dependent on how old your child is!). Which is good for everyone!
What’s the big deal about play dough?
Well, I’m so glad you asked! Every single time your child plays with play dough, they are adding to their experience of messy play and using their fine motor skills. Why is that important?
Let’s start with messy play. Exposure to sticky, squishy textures like play dough helps our kids tolerate these touch sensations and helps them to know that sticky stuff on your hands is ok. This is actually a big deal- we’re always asking kids to touch or eat foods of varying textures and stickiness, so feeling ok about mess on our hands really helps with this. It also helps kids engage in other typical kid activities like using glue, playing with sand, dirt or mud, painting and all of those other fun messy activities we remember from being kids ourselves!
PLUS… fine motor skills. These are skills that need us to use the small muscles of our hands. We need our fine motor skills to help us with important stuff like opening a bottle of water, unlocking our front door, putting coins into a vending machine and, of course, for writing and drawing. So pretty important! Any time you play with play dough, you’ll be using some kind of fine motor skills, as we manipulate play dough with our hands. We can target specific types of fine motor skills by using play dough in different ways.
The recipe below is super quick to make and you can even get your child involved to make it. I take over once we reach the boiling water step though!
How to play with play dough….
Well firstly, you can just chuck it on a table and see what your child comes up with. Easy peasy. If they need some extra ideas or you’d like to practise some specific skills, read on.
Fine motor skills
But wait… there’s more! Play dough is so great for pretend play as it can really be anything! Pretend play is an important way kids build their language skills, problem solving skills and social skills (and a bunch of other skills that nerds like me love looking at, but I’ll spare you today!). Depending on the age of your child and how comfortable they are with pretend play, they may need very little involvement from you, or they may need some prompting or “modelling” (just a fancy way of saying you do it first so that they can copy you!). A great way to start kids off is to put some play dough on the table and also give them other tools/toys that may inspire them to get into some pretending.
Practical examples… (I will always try to give lots of these as I know how much it helps when you’re on the spot thinking… I’m sure there’s a way to add to this but my coffee hasn’t kicked in yet!)