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November 23, 2011

Why play dough?

“Set out a generous amount of play dough…”

How many times do we see this in a lesson plan, in a book, on a website, etc.? How many times do we prep a wonderful activity to be done throughout the day, only to have our students run for the container of play dough and begin rolling, smooshing and poking away?

It’s enough to make any teacher step back, shake their heads and say, “Huh?”

Sometimes we forget how simple it is to be a child . When I was in my education classes years ago, I heard a fellow student say that when she was in preschool, they were given “Play Dough Time” – an uninterrupted period of time where all the children did was play with dough. At first, I was suprised and – in my graduate school overzealousness – somewhat appalled. Where was the creativity? Where was the prep work? What was the point?

As I continued to further my education, and then my career and love for early childhood education, I found the answer to be plain and simple – there doesn’t need to be patterns, glitter, glue and paint for children to have fun and learn! And, to be honest – what could be more enticing to a child than a big glop of moldable dough, just begging to be played with?

Below are some key points on why play dough is not only a great activity in the classroom, but how it assists in all areas of development for children. *

Social and Emotional Development – Self-concept, cooperation, self-control, social relationships
MSA High Quality Indicator 2.4a: Children’s accomplishments, contributions and responsibilities are meaningfully recognized.
MSA High Quality Indicator 4.1a: The curriculum reflects an integrated approach to children’s social, emotional, physical, cognitive and language development.

Creative Arts – Art, Dramatic Play
MSA High Quality Indicator 4.2c: The curriculum encourages creative expression, promotes appreciation for visual and performing arts, and supports development of artistic skills suitable to children’s maturity.

Language Development – Listening and understanding, speaking and communicating
MSA High Quality Indicator 4.2b: Teachers p;an and guide learning experiences that encourage development of children’s higher-order cognitive and language abilities,s ucha s thinking, reasoning and problem-solving.

Science – Scientific skills and methods, scientific knowledge
MSA High Quality Indicator 4.5e: Teachers encourage and support children’s immersion in science topics by building on their natural curiosity and desire to seek answers through active investigation.

Mathematics – Numbers and operations, geometry and spatial sense
MSA High Quality Indicator 4.5d: Teachers encourage mathematical thinking and problem solving through guided exploration of hands-on materials and experiences.

Literacy – Print awareness and concepts, early writing
MSA High Quality Indicator 4.4c: Teachers encourage children’s early language development and literacy skills through conversation, storytelling, singing, poetry, finger-plays, games, puppets, pretend play, shared reading of picture books, and other meaningful learning experiences.

Physical Health and Developent – Fine motor skills (control, dexterity, strength – everything a child will need for writing and drawing!)
MSA High Quality Indicator 4.2d: The curriculum addresses both large- and fine-motor skills and other means of enhancing physical and brain development).

*You will see the Middle States Association High Quality Indicators listed alongside each category. The word “curriculum” is interchangeable with “doodle day”! This shows how using playdough can be used to meet all of the MSA standards in the classroom.

Whether it be teacher-initiated or child-initiated, playdough is the ultimate example of open-ended, creative play! When you see your children playing with playdough, author Mallary I. Swartz, MS (Young Children, March 2005), asks you to keep the following in mind:

  1. Observe childrens experiences and interactions with play dough.
  2. Become familiar with the early lerning standards followed by or applicable to your program.
  3. Develop flexible strategies for interacting with children during creative play.
  4. Share with families the value of creative play experiences in yoru classroom, and remain open to their questions and concerns.

Lisa Murphy, the Ooey Gooey Lady, urges us as early childhood educators and caregivers to make a fresh batch of play dough each week. Why? Well, because a) It’s just plain fun! and b) Keep in mind the oodles of benefits to this simple, yet highly effective classroom staple. More than several other various developmental benefits were not touched on in this blog post, such as using playdough for sensory experiences or redirection of behavior. However, you are the experts of your own classroom! Please feel free to leave your ideas and experiences in the comment section below.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Ashley Fratello, Education Specialist