With back to school either here or right around the corner, every preschool teacher is probably thinking about the most time effective instructional activities. One activity you might not think about is that tiny container of play dough!
Play dough is one of the best tools young children can use to play. Whether you make it from scratch, or buy it from the store, its benefits are seemingly endless. Get your notebooks ready because within minutes of working with play dough you will be able to observe and note children's' levels in so many areas. This makes it an ideal "beginning of the year" activity!
Here is a short list of my favorite benefits you may or may not have thought about:
Play dough improves young children's fine motor skills. (Whether it's rolling, patting, poking, tearing, punching, or pinching - and I encourage you to have your children try all of these!) Tip: have your child begin play by trying to open the play dough container independently. I did not realize the importance of this particular task until recently and I love it. So challenging for little people, but what a sense of accomplishment when they can do it!
Play dough ignites creativity from the minute tiny hands remove it from its container. No matter what "theme" you are teaching, play dough can provide the perfect backdrop. I challenge you to think of another product that can be: a pizza, a dinosaur, a ball, a letter, a number, a bird, a cake, a shape, a cookie, etc., etc.!
Play dough functions alone or with other tools. It can be the center of an invitation to play or it can stand alone in play.
It provides sensory input without being too overwhelming. Its ability to provide calm proprioceptive feedback allows it to function as both a hands-on activity and a soothing activity.
It opens up children to communicate usually without defenses. Ever want to hear what young children are really thinking? Sit down at a table where they are creating with play dough. It truly opens them up to talk freely. I have heard the silliest, most endearing, heart breaking, and funniest conversations while my students were engaged in creating with play dough!
So, whether you are making it yourself or buying it, grab some play dough today and have some fun with your child!