Exploring with Play Doh

So everybody loves play doh right?? (Ok, ok, maybe not those of you with children that love smooshing it in to the carpet), but the vast majority of children and adults love the feel of its squishy squashy texture and the endless possibilities for creative and imaginative play that it gives. If you take a look at our downloadable sensory play recipe cards, you’ll find a fab recipe for homemade play doh that is my go to for when I need to make some.

Stimulating those senses

Apart from the fabulous versatility, in that you can make all sorts of different colours by making full use of those last little drops of food colouring that you might find lurking in the back of a cupboard and the amazing fragrances you can conjure up by adding some essential oils, it’s clear that play doh is a great all round sensory favourite that engages all the senses – (except for taste of course and that’s where the salt comes in to make it unpalatable so definitely don’t skip that step when making)!

Not only is it great for developing fine motor skills and encouraging imagination, creativity and problem solving (how are you going to get that 3 ball snowman to stay upright so you can put a hat on it….come to think of it, how are you going to make those 3 balls from a big blob of play doh) but it’s great for just squeezing, squishing, pushing, rolling, pinching and any number of ways you can think to mould and manipulate with fingers.

Play ideas

Lots of items work well with play doh. Aside from the usual cutters and rolling pins, things like shells, plastic cutlery, animals, dinosaurs and fish, lego blocks, duplo, pebbles, cotton reels, cars, plastic safety scissors, numbers, letters, balls, the list goes on….

Sometimes I get out the little table top play kitchen and the children enjoy pretending to make and cook all sorts of foods from sausages to peas. Get an old chocolate box (if you are like me you will have plenty!) and let them have fun making and creating different chocolates to go in it. How about drawing a picture on some paper of a person or an animal then laminating it and seeing if your child can give the person eyes, a nose, a mouth…how about hair? What about drawing some shapes and laminating those?

Can your child use the play doh to fill in the shape of a square, circle or triangle? Do some letters or numbers. Write their name to make out of play doh. If you haven’t got a laminator then try using some clear plastic sleeves and pop the paper in those. Get creative yourself and do things particular to the time of year…for instance, if it’s spring, draw a circle and see if they can make the petals to go around the circle to make a flower. How about drawing an umbrella and asking them to make the raindrops, or draw a festive Christmas tree and see if they can decorate it with play doh… let your imagination go and you’ll probably find you have as much fun coming up with little ideas as they will playing and creating.

Mark making

Plastic animals and cars make fantastic footprints and tyre tracks. Plastic forks and knives are great for practicing their table skills, plus they make great patterns too! Use the blocks to press in to the play doh to make paths and patterns, use the shells to create different textures that they can run their fingers over and feel the patterns in the doh, give them the plastic scissors so they can cut and snip at the doh. The more you let them play, the more the ideas will flow and you will probably find you are playing alongside and having just as much fun – there is no right or wrong way to engage with this medium. So get those (cheap) ingredients, roll those sleeves up, make some play doh and then let the imagination unfold.

And remember, if you don’t have an old chocolate box lying about then you may just have to go and buy one and eat all the chocolates so that your child can play with it….. the sacrifices we parents make eh? 😉

Elizabeth Taylor, Education Director

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