Playing with playdough is fun and most young children love it. But have you ever stopped to thing about how playing around with dough actually helps children to develop control and strength of the muscles in their fingers and hands? Those same little muscles which they need to be good and strong to hold a pencil and write with.
Children benefit from having LOTS of opportunities to work with playdough. Opportunities for…
Immy squeezes and kneads the colouring through the dough
Squeezing and kneading: Make a batch of uncoloured playdough and allow your children to squeeze and knead the food colouring through themselves (if you put the colouring into the middle of the dough and fold it over and then start to knead, it shouldn’t stain fingers too much). Or try kneading dough for pizzas or to make pastries.
Poking holes is lots of fun
Poking and pinching: is great for finger strength. Teaching your child to make pinch pots from clay is one way to encourage a pinching action.
Rolling air dry clay
Rolling: Teaching your child to roll snakes from modelling media with their hands and to flatten dough with a rolling pin engages both the muscles in the hand and in the arm. Rolling a ball of dough involves a different hand action and type of control.
Pressing: Don’t always give your child tools (like rolling pins and cookie cutters) to work with. It is important for children to also learn to use their hands to flatten and shape, maximising the rehearsal opportunity for co-ordination skills (and it also allows for a more creative response with the dough).
Cutting: Cutting rolls of playdough with a plastic knife or a pair of child safe scissors provides another way to practice using these every day tools.
Stamping onto flattened clay with rubber stamps
Stamping: Rubber stamps aren’t just for ink and paper. For a different experience why not try stamping onto flattened dough, plasticine or clay.
Working out shapes and how to attach them involves lots of problem solving
Constructing: Making objects with any of these modelling media involves a variety of construction techniques and plenty of opportunity for planning, problem solving and task perseverance. How will I make this balance? How will I attach this leg? That didn’t work, what else can I try?
Plasticine presents under a plasticine tree
Imagining: As well as being great for fine motor development, there is limitless potential for imaginative play to be found in a ball of dough. At Christmas time, Immy played for ages making and ‘opening’ little plasticine presents under a pretty plasticine tree.
Providing children who have had lots of experience with playdough with different modelling media helps to keep them interested. Have you tried;
- Plasticine or modelling clay: This usually requires more work to soften and model with and is therefore great for strengthening the fingers and hands of older children.
- Clay: If you don’t like the mess factor, look for child friendly air dry clay. Also, look for white porcelain clay rather than the red/brown terracotta variety.
- Salt dough.
What is your child’s favourite way to play with playdough or other modelling media?
Now is the time to create! My new book, Time to Create: Hands-On Explorations in Process Art for Young Children includes an entire section dedicated to ideas for sculpting with kids. Be sure to check it out.