One of our sensory exploration centres in the Kindergarten is the play dough table. At this activity, children discover the wonders of this soft textured material, squeezing, molding, shaping and sculpting it.
Play dough has many learning benefits for students. It helps develop fine motor strength in children’s hands as they grasp it and work it, along with the many tools available to them. This translates to stronger hand strength that can be applied when writing, dressing and using other creative materials.
Play dough offers students an opportunity to develop their
oral language skills, sharing ideas about their creations with peers and teachers “I am making cupcakes… Today I am making cookies.”
Students are also applying dramatic skills as they interactive with play dough, imagining they are working in a kitchen, a bakery or pizza parlor.
Some students may take the learning beyond the play dough centre, writing signs, costs and menus to support their dramatic play. Some students use personal interests or materials introduced in the class to inspire their work.
Students can explore math concepts through play dough, discussing costs of what they are selling, comparing sizes, shapes, textures and quantities of materials made.
Working at and tidying various learning centres enables children to feel they have a role and responsibility to play within the classroom, teaching them to manage and care for materials as well as develop self-direction.
Play dough is easy to make at home. Two recipes are available on our website on the page Classroom Recipes. One is made with Koolaid and the other is not. Alternative recipes are available on the internet. Play dough, if covered and refrigerated when unused can last for some time.
When our first batch of play dough dried out, we used this opportunity to make a new batch in class. Our students completed a survey of their colour preferences, then analyzed the results. The only problem was, we wanted a colour we didn’t have, so we had to figure out how to make purple. We researched using the story, Mix It Up, then we conducted some experiments.
Then we looked at the materials for making it, sorting them into ingredients and tools. Finally we followed the recipe together, observing the changes during the cooking process.
The benefits of play in the learning environment can not be discounted. Play is the work of children, where they explore, ask questions, share ideas and role play in a safe and stimulating environment. Where one might see a child at play dough we as teachers see chefs, bakery owners, sculptors and employees developing essential skills and creative inspiration as students work towards their future.