Playdoh – who amongst us hasn’t had a tub (or two… or more realistically, ten) in the house as part of our child’s toybox? Playdoh is a fun and easy material to use with children of different ages, requires minimal set up and clean up, and is sure to keep your children occupied. There are several developmental benefits to playing with playdoh, including creativity and imagination, sensory exploration, and using and developing fine motor skills.
- Here’s a great way to use playdoh as a multi-sensory approach to teaching kids about letters and numbers. Let’s use their name as an example. First, write your child’s name on paper as big as you can. Then, show them how to roll the playdoh into ‘worms’ of varying thicknesses and lengths. Then, get them to try to form it to the letter of their name. Once their name is complete, they can even keep rolling more worms (or balls!) to make designs around their name. Not only are they learning how to spell their name, they’re strengthening their hands (through rolling and kneading) and learning about letter/number formation!
2. You could also have your child write or trace letters in playdoh with a toothpick or pencil. The resistance that playdoh provides can teach your child about regulating pressure from their hands and fingers, which is good start for developing general pre-writing skills. Your child will likely benefit from this process of multi-sensory learning – the added sensory input that goes into his/her nervous system when forming the letters and numbers .
3. Playdoh can also be a great tool for teach kids emotional regulation. Give your child a ball of Playdoh and show him or her how to smash it with your fist, then knead it with your hands. Remind your child that feeling anger is perfectly normal and okay! Smashing Playdoh, rather than other inappropriate objects (or people!), is an excellent way to release tension and then continue to engage your child’s senses to calm down afterward.
4. Playdoh can also be used to practice building facial expressions! Laminate a picture of a blank face for easy reuse with playdoh, and you’re ready to explore feelings! Give your child this feeling mat and playdoh to create facial expressions – they could be used to express how they’re feeling right now, or how they might feel in a given situation. This is a great tool for checking in with your child about their emotional literacy.
5. You could also create a Feelings Caterpillar with multi-coloured Playdoh – this activity is a great way to have open conversations about emotions. Begin by making balls of Playdoh of each colour and placing it in the middle. Each colour of playdoh represents a different feeling, and label the colours with note cards (blue represents sadness, red represents anger, etc.). Take turns to come up with scenarios (e.g., someone laughed at me when I fell down) and choose a colour that represents how each of you might feel in the scenario. Pinch a small piece of playdoh and roll it into a ball to create a segment of their own caterpillar, and give your child a chance to share why they chose that colour. After you’ve read all of the scenarios, talk about the similarities and differences in your child’s caterpillar and your own. Talk about how in the same situation, different people might experience different feelings!
Playdoh is definitely a great teaching and learning tool. Engaging your child’s senses with playdoh can provide a sense of comfort and safety as they broach difficult topics and feelings. For more creative ideas on how to use play in your day to day interactions with your child, check back in with us on our next blog post!
Dr Lydia Soh is a registered psychologist who is a huge Harry Potter fan. Her passion for her work comes from a commitment to helping children and families develop their own toolkit of skills and strategies to achieve positive learning, healthy relationships, and mental wellbeing to lead a fulfilled life. Outside of her clinical work, she tutors at Monash University and spends her free time sweating it out at the gym or binging on the latest TV shows on Netflix.
For more ideas, or if you’d like specific advice, contact us at NCCD and HCCD to see whether one of our psychologists can help!