8 Legit benefits of play dough (India-friendly, no-cook recipe included)
Children love to manipulate objects as it is their way of exploring the world, such as stack blocks, empty baskets, smelling leaves, feeling up pebbles. When they discover the magic of a material that changes form in their hands with manipulation such as squishing food, scooping sand, patting mud pies, they discover the potential of their own hands to create. What an empowering feeling it must be to be fully in control of an object for a child.
Let's talk play dough today. Play dough, that sickly-sweet smelling lump of wonder. We will discuss the world of benefits it opens up to your children.
You will never look at it the same way again.
Multi-sensorial experience: Children use their sense of touch (hard, soft, lumpy), sight (smooth, rough) , and smell (scented, earthy, waxy) while playing with play dough.
Hand-eye coordination: They are able to imagine and model using their hands. This also helps them get a sense of their own body by creating representational models. For example: "This is Amma, This is Papa".
Develops Pre-writing skills: They strengthen their arms, wrists, and fingers. They improve fine motor skills and dexterity by manipulating the tools and the clay. They broaden their range of actions: squeezing, pinching, stretching, digging, crushing, hitting, shredding, tearing, flattening, rolling. They also learn to move their hand, thumb, and fingers independent of their forearms while working with play dough. All of these are critical to developing writing skills in the future.
Socio-emotional skills: It may sound like a lot, but playing with clay independently is an early exercise in recognizing interests, making choices, making decisions, independence, creativity, concentration, relaxation, self-expression, and building self-esteem. After all, they need to decide what to make, how to make it, if to add something to the dough (mixing in colours or objects), they need to manipulate it with their fingers which is inherently relaxing. Lastly, they recognize that they are getting increasingly proficient at modelling which contributes to early self-esteem development.
Emotional self-regulation: The therapeutic aspect of working with clay i.e. self-expression, making, destroying, pounding and hitting are good ways to let off steam. They develop a coping mechanism to manage any other frustrations (read big tears and feelings) they may have.
Language & literacy skills: Play dough helps children build their vocabulary as they explain what they are doing. For example, "Rolling a chapati”. Children use language to say stories about their playdough creations. Children also refer to things they did or saw in their everyday lives like, "This is a laddoo”. Encourage them to "roll worms" and use them to form letters. Discuss action words like "pound" and "chop" and descriptive words like "lumpy" and "sticky". These types of experiences help children learn new words and communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively.
Math skills: Children learn shapes (triangle, circle, square), 3D shapes (cube, sphere/ball, irregular shapes), Adding or subtracting pieces of clay from the larger lump makes it "bigger" or "smaller". Dividing a single piece into many smaller pieces, counting out the pieces. They learn to compare length, width, thickness (This is "wider" than that other piece). Learning how to problem solve by adjusting balance or symmetry of the object they are constructing. Such mathematical ways of thinking prepare children for learning more complex math concepts in the coming years.
Science skills: Young children are the greatest proponents of the scientific method. They try something, they fail, they try again after adjusting variables until they succeed. Play dough teaches them the basic fundamental of scientific thinking, the trial and error method. It also teaches them perseverance until they succeed.
We see recipes of play dough that involve kilos of cornstarch or baking soda or cream of tartar. Here is an India friendly, simple, no-cook, no-complicated ingredients play dough recipe that I call "The Dodo Dough". You can find the PDF here.
THE DODO DOUGH:
- 1 cup water
- 6 cups maida (flour)
- 1 cup oil
- Food colouring
(yes. That's it)
Add flour, water, oil and knead together to form a smooth dough. Split into as many portions as you need and add food colour to individual portions. Knead individual portions so that the colour gets incorporated.
Store in air-tight containers in the fridge. This can be reused.
You can provide a whole array of small objects that can be incorporated into play. This increases the complexity of play and encourages more open ended exploration of materials. These are objects that you will find around the house.
- Bottle caps
- Cookie cutters or play dough moulds
- Cutlery (knife, fork, spoon)
- Ice cream scoop
- Rolling pin
- Shoe lace
- Pasta (fusilli, penne)
- Toy vehicles (for wheel patterns)
- Alphabet shapes
- Herbs (Coriander, curry leaves, basil, dried herbs) for scent
- Rice (for texture)
Is there any other kind of toy whose benefits that you would like me talk about. Leave a comment. :)