The Benefits of Play Dough in Early Childhood

Squish, smash, twist, turn…mess.

We have all had experiences with playdough, whether in our own childhood or with our own children. But outside of simple messy play, what exactly is playdough good for?

While some may find this surprising, play dough has a wide array of developmental, learning, and sensory benefits for kids. This is why playdough is a staple in almost every early childhood classroom. Its versatility makes playdough one of those items that should be a part of every childhood.

What Playdough Teaches Kids

Fine Motor Skills: This helps in your children’s hands develop the strength, dexterity, and control needed to manipulate everyday items such as scissors, pencils, zippers, and buttons. 

Socioemotional Skills: Playdough provides a lot of open-ended opportunities for children to experience independent and cooperative play. In both styles of play, children are exploring abilities, life experiences, and emotions. During play with others (either an adult or child) children are learning about cooperation, collaboration, self-control, and friendships. 

Creativity: From dramatic play to initiating and creating whatever your child’s imagination can come up with, playdough is a fantastic outlet. Playdough can be anything! 

Language and Literacy: As children discuss what they are creating or their sensory experiences they are expanding their vocabulary. As you ask your child questions they are learning to listen. There are so many different ways children learn comprehension, listening, and communication skills through playing with playdough. 

Science and Math: Trial and error, creating shapes, comparing sizes – just simply playing with playdough exposes kids to a vast array of math and science concepts.

Sensory Benefits of Play Dough

Hand Strengthening: Squishing, smashing, pushing, pulling, twisting, cutting…all the fun of playdough. Just the basic act of playing with playdough builds those hands muscles. Playdough also comes in a variety of different consistencies some of which require more strength than others to manipulate making it fairly easy to meet individual needs.

Proprioceptive: Pushing in cookie cutters or toys, pulling back a rolling pin, or even just squeezing a very stiff dough all provide deep pressure input for your child’s joints.

Sensorimotor: Ever just sit there and squeeze/roll around a ball of play dough in your hands while your child sat there and played? A lot like a stress ball, play dough is a stress reliever. And this works for your kids too!

Tactile: Everything about playdough at the most basic level is about exploring using the tactile sensory system. From textures to consistencies, to toys and items used, playdough is all about hands-on exploration.

Olfactory: Adding scents to playdough is ridiculously easy and one of our favorite things to do! For some simple ideas check out the links below.

These are a Few of Our Favorite Play Dough Toys

Blocks Cookie Cutters
Tooth Picks Q-Tips
Comb Straws
Cups/Bowls Kids Silverware
Wine Corks Twigs/Stones
Shells Pine Cones
Buttons Googly Eyes
Bottle Tops Garlic Masher
Plastic Animals Mr. Potato Head Pieces
Strainer Pipe Cleaners
Legos Rolling Pin
Melon Baller Matchbox Cars

Play Dough Recipes and Play Ideas for Kids

Take playing with playdough to the next level with fun playdough mats. Find all of the play dough mats we have shared on site here.

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