Playdough is a must-have, powerful learning tool! Not only is it fun, it’s a serious learning opportunity for your kids. Here’s some more good news: if you sit down and squish and pound and make a worm or two with a batch of playdough alongside your preschooler or toddler, the learning – and fun – goes a lot further.
Creativity and imagination are on full display when playdough is involved. Kids seem to gravitate toward making “food” with playdough, so you’ll see lots of cookies with tiny rolled bits of playdough for chocolate chips and cakes with long strips for birthday candles made from playdough. Kids become bakers, chefs, or even a demonstration teacher explaining how to make the perfect pizza. Long, rolled-out playdough will, for sure, become worms and balls of playdough a snowman. Playdough is perfect for being creative when it becomes something else. Playdough is perfect for imagination when kids become someone else.
Talk, Talk and Talk Some More!
Use language-rich description words with action as you’re creating next to your preschooler or toddler. Smoosh, flatten, chop, slice, sticky, smooth – you’re using words to describe senses here, and young children learn through hands-on experiences using their senses. How about creating the same thing twice – one big cookie and one small cookie. Here kids are learning opposites vocabulary with a visual. The more words toddlers and preschoolers have tucked away in a vocabulary bank, they better readers they will become.
Social-Emotional Learning and Playdough
When you sit down with your kids and create with playdough, there’s communication involved. When you give praise for what they’ve accomplished, kids feel like they’re capable of creating things that are worthwhile and amazing. Ask your toddler or preschooler, “Tell me how you made that!” They’ll use words and actions to describe to you how they made their creation. By explaining what they did, they’re using words in speech which reinforces what those words mean. And kids will be using logical thought to communicate a step-by-step process. Not sure what your toddler or preschooler has created? Don’t guess! Instead ask, “Tell me about your creation. What did you make?” Again, they’ll explain to you what they made – and you won’t make a wrong guess!
Playdough and Writing – A Must for Muscles
Playdough strengthens muscles in the fingers all the way up through the shoulders, which is just what kids need to hold a pencil correctly and write letters with strong, bold lines. This goes a long way, too, for scissor skills – its takes muscle power to cut out projects with multiple pieces or large shapes. When kids use cookie cutters, a plastic knife (if they’re ready for that), or a rolling pin, they’re practicing hand-eye coordination for writing later.
Math Tools and Playdough
Bring in some kitchen measuring cups and measuring spoons to use with playdough. Introduce the concept of whole, half, teaspoon and Tablespoon. You’re teaching sizes of kitchen tools – a life skill concept.
Use shape cookie cutters and a plastic knife to cut the shapes in half. Lots of vocabulary here! If you cut a square in half, what shape does it make? Now you’re teaching geometry!
Science Skills and Playdough
Your preschooler or toddler will be watching what you make – or what other kids make – and begin to think about the science concepts of observing and analyzing what they’re seeing. Maybe they can picture a different way to make something, or what they think would be an easier way to create what they see. They’re practicing trial and error and cause and effect science concepts here.