The educational value of play dough for children

the value of play dough

My young son’s pre-school teacher likes to wax lyrical about kids and play dough.

Shelley (the teacher) has been teaching pre-school for 22 years, so she knows her stuff and play dough is her number one favourite activity to have in her classroom.

Shelley and I have had a few discussions about play dough during the time both my boys have attended her school and this is what she has to say about it:

pre school kids using play dough
Image by CatJB

“The best thing about play dough is the word play“.

There is no agenda, or expected outcome with play dough, it is just for playing with and such a lot of things are learnt through just play.

You can often take a cranky, out-of-sorts child and sit them down with some play dough and a short while later this child will be happily absorbed in rolling, mashing, squeezing, cutting and creating.

The crankiness gets worked out in a non-destructive way.”

Now, I can attest to this with my own children. My at-the-time 4 year old son was out of sorts.The “mummy-never-lets-me-do-anything-I-want!” sort of bad mood and nothing anyone did was right. I offered to make play dough with him and was soundly rebuffed.

play dough recipe imagination
Image by CatJB

So I made it with his younger brother instead, several different colours. Well, it wasn’t long before Mr cranky pants was right in there with his younger brother, enjoying some play doughy goodness and in a much better humour.

More from Shelley:

“Some children are nervous and unsure when they arrive for pre-school in the morning and are not ready to be thrust into the turmoil that can sometimes manifest as more kids arrive and parents come and go.

Often, it is the same few children, and the first thing they do is sit down at the play dough table.

After a few minutes of intense, hands-on play dough work, their eyes start to drift around the room, having a look while they’re hands stay busy and after a few more minutes they usually feel comfortable enough to leave the play dough and integrate themselves into another activity.”

the value of play dough
Image by CatJB

‘If a child is playing too roughly and has already been corrected a few times, l instruct them to sit down and play with the play dough.

I don’t ask them if they want to, I tell them to. (Well, she is the teacher, after all!)

It works wonders, they become absorbed and when they bring themselves back to the group later on, they are much calmer.”

“Making play dough is an important part of the morning. The children know the recipe so well, they can tell me how to make it! And when big brothers or sisters happen to visit our centre, often the first place they head is the play dough table. Play dough should be in every prep, grade one and grade two classroom”.

play dough recipe for pre school class
Image by CatJB

My older son’s grade one teacher has even told me she loves having play dough in her classroom. And it was Shelley who taught me the secret of the vibrant coloured play dough.

I asked her one day when I was on parent-help duty how they get their play dough coloured so brightly and she told me they use powdered poster paint!

Who knew?!

Click on the picture below to visit my easy play dough recipes page.

best play dough recipes pre school
Easy play dough recipes for pre school. Image by CatJB

 And discover how to make the colours so bright you need sun glasses!

Some interesting reading on learning through play dough:

A preschool teacher’s world.  This is a wonderful blog run by a preschool teacher, she has a lot to say about play dough and if you have anything to do with young children, you’ll enjoy the other activities she details as well.

Some reading on the importance of play for young children. Plenty of play dough action and other fabulous activities for young children here

Play dough: What’s standard about it? A comprehensive article written by Mallory I. Swartz.

The value of play-based learning: Why should I make play dough?  A blog written for parents, this article is written by Karen Kinsel Silcox, PhD.