5 Simple ways to play and learn with playdough

5 Ways to play and learn with playdough

Most of us with little children have playdough in the house. The versatility of playdough makes it a clear stand out favourite. The possibilities for self-expression, creativity and learning with playdough are endless. This post will explore 5 simple ways to play and learn with playdough including:

  1. Threading
  2. Playdough Bakery
  3. Playdough Vehicle Tracks
  4. Nature Mandala
  5. Open-Ended Play Dough Fun

Every idea on this list is something that can be put together with things you probably already have in your home.

Being such a flexible medium means that playdough can be used both as an open-ended invitation and one to encourage learning i.e letter recognition. Open-ended simply means it calls to your child’s creativity by allowing them to play and create without instruction.

If you don’t have some playdough at home already or you’re curious about making your own check out my soft and easy playdough recipes.

Make sure to supervise younger children as some of these invitations include the use of small parts.

1. Threading

Threading

This is one invitation to play and learn that your toddler is sure to love, it gives the child a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment once they get the hang of it. Plus it’s so simple to set up.

Learn

Handling small objects will help your child’s fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. They get to experience feelings of achievement and success, use their creativity, and work on developing concentration.

To make sure you set up for success you can modify the challenge level by including bigger and smaller items depending on the age and stage of the child. For younger children a straw and larger pasta shapes and a skewer and beads for older children.

Mess Level

Low, especially if you have purchased your playdough. Keep the activity on a tray and away from the carpet.

You will need

Spaghetti or a wooden skewer or straws

Playdough

Different shaped pasta- Rigatoni, penne

Buttons

Beads

This pasta threading invitation is so simple, just invite the child to stick the straw or skewers into the playdough and thread the objects available. I chose the skewer, medium pasta shapes, beads, and larger buttons for a bit of a challenge. If you don’t have loose objects just roll some playdough into balls and get the child to thread them onto the skewer.

My toddler sat still for about 20 min focusing on this invitation. It’s great to do together, you could take turns threading or thread your own. Try having a conversation about the different shapes and colours you can see.

2. Playdough Bakery

2. Playdough Bakery

Using playdough to set up a bakery and make cakes is as old as time. I remember doing this with my mum! Get ready to sing happy birthday 100 times. This invitation is fail-safe and will capture your child’s creativity and imagination.

Learn

If you wanted to introduce some mathematical concepts to your child, this is a great time to do it, think size and counting. You can also get your toddler/child involved in the making of the playdough and count and measure with them as you make the playdough recipe together.

Mess Level

Low, especially if you have purchased your playdough. Keep the activity on a tray and away from the carpet.

You will need

Playdough

Cupcake liners paper or silicone

Cupcake tins in various sizes

Candles

Baking tools such as rolling pin, plastic knife, biscuit cutters

Loose parts to add to your creations; buttons, beads, glitter, pompoms. (Make sure to be an active participant and supervise younger children with smaller parts.)

For younger children

Invite them to roll out, stamp and mash the dough.

Make a variety of cakes and stick in the candles, sing happy birthday.

Invite them to cut the playdough with scissors or cut with the plastic knife.

Invite them to make shapes and then stick loose parts into it.

For older children

Invite them to add glitter or essential oils to the playdough for a more sensory experience.

Set up a shop front for the bakery, make signs, and dig out a toy cash register for an instant shop feel.

3. Playdough Vehicle Tracks

3. Playdough vehicle Tracks

If you have a million construction vehicles at home as I do, then you can easily create this simple invitation to play and learn. Simply grab a few vehicles, some playdough and roll out the dough, then rolls the vehicles through the playdough.

Learn

We are flexing that creative muscle again, soon your little one will be making up scenes and stories.

Independent play, if your child is interested in what they are doing then chances are they will engage with it longer, helping them to learn and play independently. Follow your child and use what interests them.

They are building their concentration and focus, sometimes the simplest set up is the one that holds their attention the longest.

Mess Level

Low, especially if you have purchased your play dough. Keep the activity on a tray and away from carpet.

You will need

Playdough

Rolling pin

Vehicles

If you don’t have vehicles you could use farm animals or Lego block to stamp into the playdough and make patterns.

For younger children

Invite them to squash down the playdough and roll the various vehicles through the dough. This invitation is very intuitive, most toddlers and children will naturally grab the vehicle and go to town making tracks in the play dough.

For older children

Make a mini-city from playdough, using the playdough to create roads and a city scape.

Make a maze for the cars to escape from.

4. Nature Mandala

Nature Mandalas are so lovely to make together and can be a simple way to connect with your little ones and get outside for some fresh air.

Before you begin you can go on a little nature walk to the local park, the beach, or even just your backyard. See what you can find together to incorporate into your playdough nature mandala.

Kids love collecting found objects and squirrelling them away in their pockets. Don’t forget to carry something with you to collect all the goodies you find.

Learn

This invitation is wonderful for encouraging sensory exploration, by adding different textures, shapes, and smells you encourage all the senses to be explored. Your nature walk will have seen you collect some interesting textures and shapes that you can talk about and explore together.

Mess Level

Low, keep the found objects together in a tray to keep them all together and easily accessible.

You will need

Flower petals

Small pebbles and rocks

Twigs and sticks

Leaves

Shells

Pinecones

Bark

Sand

Seedpods

For older children

Invite them to roll out a circle of dough big enough to hold all their nature items.

What is a mandala? Put simply it is a circular structure, which is special to the artist. You can find natural mandalas in flowers, tree rings, shells. Interestingly the circle is one of the first forms that a child begins to draw. There is no right or wrong way to make a mandala.

Invite the child to place the found nature objects in a symmetrical pattern, or how every they please.

For younger children

Talk about the nature item, invite the child to explore it with their senses, is it hard or soft? How does it feel when you squish it into the dough, does it smell?

Invite them to explore the nature items, as with the older children you can have a little conversation about how the items feel, naming the items as you push them into the playdough.

Have fun with it, again there is no right or wrong way to create a mandala each one is special and unique.

5. Open Ended Play Dough Fun

This one is as simple as providing the child with some playdough and perhaps a few of the items listed above, see what they come up with and follow their lead. What would you make?

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hello@artplayheart.com

About Emma - Founder of Art Play Heart and passionate advocate of getting as many children as possible to enjoy art making in their lives! There is nothing more magnificent than watching a child or anyone for that matter flourish and discover themselves and the world around them through being creative and making art in all its glorious forms.

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