My name is Ashton, I’m already 5 and I love playdough. At school, me and my friend pretended we were making cakes to sell in our shop. We decided to sell them for £5. It was really fun making them together…
Dough disco and playdough toolkits. Activities for counting with playdough and making letters with it for phonics practise. The list of what you can do with it is endless and the suggestions online are unlimited. Playdough is wonderful for all these things: it improves fine motor skills for tying laces and pencil grips; it builds imagination and creativity as it is transformed into anything; it promotes language development as children talk about what they’ve made; it develops hand-eye co-ordination as they’re rolling it; it develops number and shape awareness through counting and sorting. Although playdough is sometimes seen as the stuff only of pre-school, its learning potential is enormous for older children too.
But add some unexpected packaging and interesting waste items, and the learning deepens even further…
Instead of wooden or plastic rolling pins, how about a variety of bottles? Glass ones, filled ones, metal ones. Suddenly there are many ways to roll, a number of senses are engaged and critical thinking comes into play as the child decides how to use the item in conjunction with the playdough, and assesses the weight, size, material and risks involved.
Instead of plastic playdough cutters, how about the handles off plastic clothes packaging? The children experiment with what to do with them, cutting and making patterns. The item’s use is not necessarily pre-determined.
Golf tees instead of candles mean that the children don’t automatically make pretend ‘cakes’. They use the tees to prick holes and make detailed, skilled patterns, or cut and score the playdough. Again, by not giving children pre-ordained objects, the learning and engagement becomes heightened and the outcomes become self-directed.
What we noticed most in the classroom, was the connection and deepened interactions between children. Over the many years we have worked with young learners with playdough, the collaboration that emerged from this particular playdough session was noticeable. The packaging that we provided enabled wonderful narratives and extended role-play to unfold. Children talked intensively and extensively to one another and worked together to create intricate play scenarios in which they each had a role. They could make decisions, they could set the scene. The children were in control. And all the areas of learning were covered…and more.
Maria Montessori spent most of her teacher education trying to get teachers to stop teaching. She believed that learning should be self-directed and collaborative.
The power of packaging with playdough.
For tried and tested playdough, here is a fool-proof uncooked recipe:
2 cups plain flour
2 tbs vegetable oil
½ cup salt
2 tbs cream of tartar
Up to 2 cups boiling water
Mix the flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil. Add the boiling water. Stir continuously until it combines. Allow to cool and then knead it until it is no longer sticky. Keep in the fridge. The mixture can easily be doubled. It lasts for up to 6 weeks if put back in the fridge after use.