Play – our way! The power of dough!

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Play – our way! The power of dough!

Playdough play holds no age barrier!

At Sleepy Hollow we love both play dough and clay.

In fact in our pre school rooms we have dough stations where the children have all the ingredients to hand to make dough every single day.  In our wraparound units we make use of crates and wood to have dough stations.  We simply bring out the ingredients as we make the dough up as and when we use it.

We usually change up loose parts to go alongside the dough, but as you can see above there are food colouring dispensers, a beautiful samavar from which we can dispense water, favours and essences, and herbs.  Long gone are the days when we used coloured plasticine which was rock hard and a rainbow of colours at the end of the day.

We love to expand the dough areas by adding projections onto the walls as can be seen below where we have set up a lavender dough station and projected lavender fields onto the walls.  It just adds to the invitation to play and the magic of the area.

Benefits of playdough

We all know the benefits of playdough and clay for young children – whilst poking and manipulating playdough into shapes children are using small muscles in their hands and fingers which are critical in areas of physical development and fine motor skills needed for writing and drawing.  As soon as we add loose parts and other elements to the dough the list of benefits of creative play are endless.  Children mould, flatten, squish, break, pinch and roll both dough and clay to make many wonderful creations.

At our dough stations the communication and dialogue around the creations being made are amazing. The observations we can see and hear are precious.  We learn of the words associated with rolling and flattening the dough.  As co-learners the adults are verbalising all of the time to the children about their creations.

We are also learning about literacy and numeracy as we follow recipes, count loose parts or using cutters to cut into equal sizes and shapes.

We dont use templates or ideas for children to follow.  We allow children the freedom to make and create from their imagination.  The more loose parts we can offer the better the play opportunities. This also helps with attention span – the more we add the longer children will stay focused at the activity.  We often find children will start over and over to make sure they reshape the dough or the clay until their creations are just as they imagined them to be.

We often bring dough with us to forest time sessions as during our walks we collect leaves, twigs, flowers or petals which have fallen on the ground.  This give us a whole new world of adventure to add to our creations.  You can see the levels of concentration on the faces of the children as they are engrossed in this activity.

Sometimes we bring these natural loose parts back into the settings to add to our dough stations – even just seeing how the leaves, flowers, twigs and acorns leave prints in the dough – some of the school children have told us they are making fossils from the dough as captured in the photo below.

Playdough for all ages

Playdough of course knows no age barrier.  Its a staple play provocation or invitation set up in our wraparound school age facilities.  Its very therapeutic play for older children who of course enjoy the sensory experiences and calmness that this activity brings.  It brings with it a sense of curiosity and in fact there is a whole chapter dedicated to it in the A-Z of the Curiosity Approach book (available on amazon).

There is an undeniable correlation between sensory activities and calmness.  By adding lavender, chamomile and eucalyptus it can help with relaxation and promotes self regulation.  In fact dough, clay and Thera putty is often used by play therapists for children who are experiencing sensory overloads

Quite often when you come into our settings you will see the staff playing at the dough stations with the children – its play knows no age boundaries.  We find it particularly useful when a child is transitioning at the start of after schools, after homework or at the end of the day when its time to relax after noisy or physical outdoor play.


Playdough recipe

We have lots of different and varying recipes for dough but the one we use the most is

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1/4 cup of salt
  • 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
  • optional : food colouring, essential oils, herbs, lavender and as many loose parts as you care to add.

We tend to make fresh dough daily depending on how much it has been played with the day before but if you put dough in a strong sandwich bag it can be reused again and again.



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