There are many educational benefits of play dough, and what better way for children to learn than through play. Children’s faces light up when they first see play dough come out tub-shaped, clean and brightly colored. They can’t wait to get their hands on it.
Children learn best when playing and enjoying themselves. Play dough provides a perfect educational and learning medium. The eye-catching colors immediately grab a child’s attention. The squishy material is easy to model.
Toddlers can learn about colors and shapes. Some play dough kits come with shape cutters. Kids love to see the shapes that their little hands have made through using the different shaped cutters. They will be intrigued to see circles, squares, star and heart shapes. Children learn best when they are having fun.
Games that involve simple counting and sorting shapes into pairs can be immensely enjoyable. Pairs can be taught by matching shapes and or colors. It is not only visual learning that is enhanced, but conversational skills too. Adults can help increase the vocabulary of their children by talking about shapes, colors, matching, pairs and things being the same and things being different.
Children learn through imaginative play also. Play dough helps make the most of a child’s sense of touch and sight. The little rolling pin and plastic blunt knife help to hone a child’s dexterity. The child can learn the difference about thick and thin flat, wide, narrow, round, solid etc. They can be helped to find out, for example, that by cutting diagonally through a square, it can be made into a triangle.
Pretend play such as making cakes, rolling out the pastry and cutting out shapes all help to enhance the child’s understanding of how food is made, and once again can extend vocabulary to include words related to kitchen, implements, foods and baking. Safety issues could also be addressed whilst pretend playing: “Now the cookies and pies go into the oven to bake. We have to be careful not to burn our hands. You should never touch the cooker; only moms and dads can touch the cooker.”
Simple math can be taught through using play dough. By rolling it out into number shapes or sticks, it is easy to get across the concept of numbers. Multiplication, division, adding and subtracting can all be attempted with play dough, depending of course upon the child’s age and ability. In fact, the possibilities are endless for using play dough with children.
Letters and words can be modeled, which will add to the fun of learning language. Spelling and reading can be introduced via play dough, according to the age and ability of the child.
Supervised play when one or more kids are using play dough is essential. Children also need to play without adult involvement from time to time so that they can develop socially at their own level, with adults looking on.
Play dough is a good medium for children with learning disabilities or who have visual or hearing impairments. These children may need closer supervision by an adult. Visually impaired children may find learning, through touch, the concept of shapes easier by handling play dough. They might find ways unique to them of expressing themselves by playing this way. Hearing impaired and visually impaired kids could also help each other through interactive play.
Adults might find their own imaginations improve whilst using play dough with kids. The sky’s the limit.