by Alix Tonsgard

A love of playdough seems to be timeless and understandably so! For sensory oriented people, it can be relaxing or even stress relieving. For creative types, it sparks imagination and stimulates curiosity. But did you know that playdough is so much more than a fun sensory experience?

Playdough can be used to support all areas of development from fine motor to social emotional as well as learning math, science, and language. It stimulates problem solving skills too which are important to the development of critical thinking skills. Just the act of playing with playdough works to strengthen important small muscles in children’s hands.

Scientific Thinking

One of the foundational skills in science learning for young children is the ability to notice and talk about the physical properties of objects and how they do or do not change when manipulated. When making your own playdough, talk to your little ones about what happens to the dry ingredients when you add the wet. This presents opportunities for experimentation and great discussion. “Looks like we used too much water because the dough is very wet. What do you think would have happened if we had added too much flour instead?”

Math

To support math learning, write or print the recipe in a large font and walk children through it step by step. It’s never too early to introduce children to measurement and numbers, especially when it is fun and hands-on. Playing with playdough also presents lots of opportunities to practice counting, talk about spatial relationships, sort and classify, compare and contrast. All of these things lay the foundation for later learning of increasingly complex math concepts.  

Language and Literacy

Through play, playdough naturally stimulates experiences that encourage children to tell stories, explain what they are doing, negotiate situations with peers, practice listening and talking, and develop vocabulary.
For more examples and to find a favorite recipe, read my full blog at dupagechildrens.org/blog. Questions? Use the hashtag #PlayIQwithDCM.

Alix Tonsgard is an early learning specialist at the DuPage Children’s Museum.