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red, black, orange and yellow play dough in natural childcare centre
By keiki

Why we Love Playing with Dough

Play dough has been synonymous with childhood for as long as most of us can remember. Brightly coloured, resilient, easy to make and impossible to break, play dough is the ultimate conduit for creativity and learning. Play dough can also end up in places we’d rather it didn’t such as underfoot or in the cat’s bowl. But nonetheless it is endlessly amusing and part of every household. So why is this?

Play dough and modelling

Humans have been making pots, bowls and sacred objects out of clay for many hundreds of years. The world they live in has been reflected in the things they make. Whether to create an object, tell a story, or just enjoy the process, modelling seems almost instinctive.

For this reason, play dough is a wonderful inclusion in your little one’s craft box. While collage, drawing, and craft construction teach particular cognitive and fine motor skills, play dough can allow for greater freedom of expression. Modelling will still hone motor and cognitive skills, but the pliable nature of the dough means a more lateral approach can be taken.

Play dough is forgiving

Works made with play dough can quickly be changed, erased or re-made altogether. This alleviates anxiety around making mistakes and encourages experimentation. Patterns can be made in the dough. It can be sliced, pummelled, moulded or carefully rolled into snakes to make a small pot.

Colours can be mixed and abstract designs easily achieved. Sculpting allows children to externalise their internal world without the frustration that sometimes comes with drawing, writing, and precision work.

Play dough doesn’t make the mess that paint or glue does, so it can be used without such stringent monitoring. This gives young children a sense of ownership over a medium at a stage in life where they are often struggling to achieve a feeling of empowerment.

When used symbolically, play dough allows children to tap into a deeper part of their subconscious and expression. This is wonderfully meaningful and meditative for children and allows them to form connections between their internal and external worlds. Being such a flexible medium, children more easily gain a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

Exploring literacy and numeracy

Play dough can be used to build literacy skills by learning to form letters with the dough. Help your child to write their name or the name of a friend or pet. The act of creating the letters will help to anchor the shape and form and build associations with the letter in your child’s mind. Play dough can also be used to form numbers, colour groups, and patterns to teach early numeracy skills in a play-based way.

Play dough time is a great time to connect with your little one as sculpting is something adults can enjoy as well. There are reasons why sand play and clay are used therapeutically. So if you haven’t done so in a while, why not sit down and have a go with your little one!

If you would like to find out more about the play-based learning activities at Keiki Early Learning, give us a call or contact us online today.