Once your child has reached the stage where everything does not go in the mouth, its time to explore some playdough.😀 There is something very soothing about playing with playdough. I know playdough drives some parents crazy ( me too 😜 ) – no matter how much you try you always track it around your house, bottom of shoes, clothes, what not…
But the benefits outweigh the mess.. When kids play with it they are motivated to explore it soft & responsive sensory qualities. They squeeze it, poke it, squash it, pick it up, pat it down. The dough responds to all their actions and they learn that their actions have consequences. Working the playdough with hands helps build muscles, hand-eye coordination and also improves fine motor skills.
- Its fun
- Helps strengthen hands, wrist, fingers.
- Builds imagination, communication skills – discussing what has been made
- Develops self esteem – there is no wrong or right way to play with it
- Math skills – dividing it up to count numbers
- Its a open ended toy – it could be anything – food, animals, faces, shapes, etc..
2. Smash it with a tool. Potato smashers work well, and there are so many different kinds.
3. Pull it apart. This is a good precursor for learning to tear paper later on.
4. Roll it with hands. Don’t expect your toddler to be able to roll a ball with coordinated motions at this age. Instead help them practice simply rolling the play dough back and forth to make an oblong form (snake, hot dog, etc.). This can be done between their hands, or they while rolling the play dough back and forth on the table using one or both hands.
5. Roll it with a tool. Hands can be placed either directly on top of the rolling pin, or on the outer handles. Don’t have a rolling pin? Use the side of a firm cup to roll instead.
6. Use cookie cutters. You can use biscuit cutters with handles for kids at this developmental stage because they are easy to grasp and push down on, or you can also use regular old cookie cutters. Don’t have any cookie cutters? Simply flip over an open cup and show your toddler how to press it down into the play dough to make circles.
7. Poke it with fingers. Fun way to explore while strengthening those index fingers.
8. Poke it with golf tees. Golf tees are not sharp and they are just the right size for toddler hands. Don’t have golf tees? Try using straws that have been cut in half instead (thicker straws meant for milkshakes/smoothies might be easier at this stage).
9. Poke it with toothpicks. Toothpicks are a good tool for older toddlers who have mastered the pincer grasp and are comfortable using longer tools (as opposed to pellet-shaped items). Don’t have any toothpicks? Then take some Q-tips, cut them in half, and use them like the golf tees, with your child grasping the bulb end and poking with the end that has been cut. In addition to simply poking, you can start to show your 18+ month child how to make vertical and horizontal marks in the play dough. Since children learn to feed themselves with a fork in the later toddler months, you could also use a fork instead of a toothpick to practice fork use (so long as they don’t try and actually eat the play dough).
10. Decorate it with small items. In general, wait until your toddler is closer to 18-24 months and up before trying this one, both for motor skills and choking prevention reasons. Larger items such as big googly eyes will be easier to grasp and push down, while smaller items such as small eyes, coins, and beads will present an increased challenge for those finger skills. Older toddlers might enjoy hunting for partially (or fully) hidden items such as coins or beads within a lump of play dough. Just be sure you are wise about selecting items you are confident your toddler will not put in their mouth.
BONUS: Poke and cut at it with play dough scissors. Though toddlers technically possess the hand skills necessary to begin snipping with scissors by age 2, many parents are not comfortable giving their toddler scissors. Use play dough time to introduce your child to toddler-safe play dough scissors.