The Benefits of Playing with Playdough
As a versatile, non-toxic, and appealing substance, playdough, whether homemade or store-bought, is easily one of the best things that can be used to support and spice up children’s play and learning.
Young children just love to play with it, and this is not the least bit surprising when you consider that playdough feels soothing to the touch, is fun to use, and opens up numerous creative possibilities during play due to its malleable nature.
Beyond the fun and freedom it offers, play involving playdough can be advantageous to many aspects of a child’s development; so if you have been wondering what benefits your child could gain from amusing themselves with it, read on to find out.
Play with playdough promotes physical development
As they squish, mold, roll, poke, twist, pound, and do all sorts of things with playdough (which can be made available in a variety of consistencies), your child’s hands and fingers will gradually build up strength, coordination and dexterity, all of which are quite necessary for the proper handling of some items they come across every day.
In other words, a child who frequently plays with playdough using their hands and other tools such as sticks, develops fine motor skills, and should have no problems manipulating items like scissors, zippers and buttons, or grasping their pencils the right way, for instance.
Your child is also more likely to develop their ability to match hand movement with eye movement through the use of playdough. And this eye-to-hand coordination, combined with muscles of the fingers, wrists and hands made strong and dexterous through repeated squashing, pulling, pounding, sculpting, chopping, and other physical movements that characterize play with playdough, will help your child excel when it comes to writing, drawing, playing certain musical instruments, performing simple household tasks, and so on.
Language and literacy are improved
While engaged in playdough play whether in school or at home, children tend to talk to their playmates, siblings, and even adults about what they are creating; they discuss their sensory experiences; they use language and ideas from things they see every day, stories that are read to them, etc., to make up narratives about their playdough models; they listen to their friends talk about their own activities and creations; and they also ask questions.
This level of interaction that usually accompanies play with playdough provides your child with opportunities of learning new words, improving their vocabulary, and communicating their ideas and thoughts in an effective manner. Also, as you make a batch of playdough at home with your child by following a recipe, they have more opportunities of learning to connect written words with spoken words, as well as differentiating between action words (such as “mix” and “stir”) and descriptive words (such as “soft” and “smooth”).
Imagination is stimulated, creativity is enhanced
Due to its nature, playdough places almost no limits on what a child will be able to create with just a little bit of imagination. A young child may make a chunk of playdough into a snake in one moment, and then turn it into a football in the next. Older preschoolers tend to create even more detailed playdough models. While playing in a group, they may, for instance, sculpt their favorite animals and pretend to be zookeepers; or they may create a house together while pretending to be builders or construction workers. In short, with playdough children could create anything imaginable that happens to catch their fancy.
All this make-believe play with playdough serves to encourage symbolic thinking in children, and as a great outlet for creativity, playdough also gives them the freedom to exercise their imagination, as well as express the ideas they imagine in tangible form through artistic creations.
Socio-emotional development is positively impacted
Independent or cooperative play with playdough offers a lot of opportunities for children to explore their abilities, emotions, as well as life experiences.
As they create with playdough, children get to experience the feelings of pride and satisfaction we all experience when we achieve something, and they also get to develop confidence in their abilities.
Playdough serves as a convenient and effective outlet for negative feelings/emotions. When your child is frustrated, stressed, or angry for example, try providing some playdough and getting them to play with it; you will notice that by the time they are done squeezing, pounding, rolling, or twisting the dough, their mood would have been transformed.
Cooperative playdough play with other children or an adult – a sort of interaction which should be encouraged and practiced as much as possible – helps to teach your child what collaboration and friendships are all about.
Preschoolers who have learnt to be delighted with their little accomplishments and confident in their abilities, to let out their negative emotions constructively, to cooperate with others and work towards a common goal, and to build friendships with people, tend to grow up as emotionally and socially balanced individuals better-equipped to succeed in life.
Playdough play improves math and science skills
One more reason why play involving playdough is widely recommended by parents and teachers especially is because it familiarizes children with a number of basic math and science concepts.
Making a batch of playdough with your child would involve some counting, measurements, and comparisons. By urging them to, for instance, count as you add the required number of cups of flour, to observe as you measure out the required quantity of water, or to compare the sizes of the measuring cups and spoons being used, you are encouraging mathematical thinking.
Children also tend to compare and contrast – in terms of shapes and sizes – the objects they create with playdough. Taking note of the size and shape (or geometry) of one object in relation to another makes them more spatially aware, helps them understand the concept of sorting and classifying things, and paves the way for the assimilation of more complicated math concepts in the future.
Real-life experiences are the first source of a young child’s knowledge of science. As they observe and interact with the world around them, children begin to understand scientific concepts such as cause and effect, color, texture, states of matter, and so on. You can encourage scientific thinking in your child by introducing materials such as sand, rice, pebbles, and sawdust to vary the texture of their playdough and letting them talk about the changes in feel; by letting them observe how different ingredients can mix together in specific proportions to form playdough; by making playdough of different colors and encouraging them to experiment with these colors to determine which looks better when combined with which; and even by adding scents to their homemade playdough to stimulate their sense of smell.
All in all, play with playdough offers young children constant fun; relief from stress; a means of expression; physical, emotional, and intellectual development; and the development of some useful life skills. So if you have not done so already, now would be a good time to introduce playdough into your young one’s play sessions at home so they can reap the benefits that come with playing with this wonderful material.