We often use play dough as a sensory play activity. As they explore through touch — squeezing and squishing, rolling and cutting – they enhance fine motor skills too. With the addition of food coloring and spices the dough can excite the sight and smell senses also. Of course there is always at least one child who insists on tasting.
When I make a new batch of play dough I divide it up into individual portions and put them in sandwich bags. The sandwich bags are then placed in a container and stored in the refrigerator until we want to use it. I love watching the expressions on the children’s faces when they eagerly grab their ball of play dough and then quickly drop it back on the tray.
“Ooooh, it’s so cold!” Feeling the change in temperature and texture as they work the dough adds a little science to the activity.
Using this storage method the play dough lasts much longer than if it was left at room temperature but it still doesn’t last forever. Inevitably the dough will begin to loose its usefulness I need to make more. The new batch will have different characteristics – maybe even some glitter or sand.
When I saw this activity over at Nurturing Young Minds I thought it would be a terrific way to extend the interest the children had shown for following the animal tracks in the snow outside. I still had the ‘pumpkin spice’ dough we had been using but I didn’t think it would be a good substitute for snow. Instead of just tossing it out I decided to let the children make some sculptures that they could take home.
I introduced the activity to the younger children in the morning when the older ones were in school. They were thrilled to cut and shape the familiar dough but initially left the decorations untouched. I think they may have been unsure about adding ‘stuff’ to the dough because usually I throw out the dough when it gets ‘dirty’.
I took some dough and supplies and made my own little sculpture as an example. Tentatively they started making their own creations.
I left them to enjoy their creative process while I gave the baby his bottle. I observed them from a distance as they made sculptures and then carefully separated all the ‘stuff’ from the dough and then made something new.
This process kept them engaged for over an hour! They seemed unconcerned about their lack of any ‘product’. When I said it was nearly time to clean up for lunch that they hastily added a few loose bits to their ball of dough and placed it on the tray to dry.
The older children got their turn with this activity during quiet time in the afternoon when the little ones were napping. They immediately dove in, rolled out their dough and stuck on some decorations – a process that lasted less than five minutes. Then they moved on to other quiet time activities.
We’ve been watching the sculptures dry — checking daily to see if they are firm enough to pick up. Today they will take them home.
For some it was all about the process and for others it was the product.