Sam Flatman, an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play, talks about why squidging dough, moulding shapes and mixing colours is beneficial for toddlers.

Children love play dough and can spend hours feeling it, rolling it, shaping it and sticking it to a table. Apart from the fun that’s had, just what are the benefits of playing with play dough? You’ll be pleased to hear that playing with this sticky stuff is not only good for your child’s fine motor development and hand-eye coordination but boosts creativity and soothes anxieties.

Fine Motor Skill Development

All that squishing and squashing of play dough is a great way to strengthen the muscles in children’s hands and fingers. Developing fine motor skills at an early age is essential as it will later be needed for other activities such as gripping a pencil, using a paintbrush and, eventually, writing.

Hand-Eye Coordination

Another benefit of playing with dough is that it can improve toddlers’ hand-eye coordination as they pay careful attention to how their hand movements manipulate the dough so that they can mould their desired shapes. Transforming the dough into exactly what they want it to look like takes quite a bit of practice; when they’re starting out, you can expect to be teaching them very simple ideas such as how to roll balls and long sausage shapes.

Creativity and Imagination

Thinking up what shapes to mould involves quite a lot of imagination; the possibilities are endless and children will have a terrific time making everything from mashed potato to hedgehogs with their lumps of play dough. After some initial moulding, followed of course by lots of praise for their independent efforts, you can encourage children to be more creative by giving them extra bits and bobs such as toothpicks for hedgehog spikes or buttons for a coat – there’s great fun to be had with these parent-toddler projects!

Calming and Therapeutic

Just sitting down and taking time to roll out a piece of play dough is an activity that many children find soothing. Play dough can also work as a ‘stress’ ball for children who are feeling tense or have extra energy to release, improving focus and concentration while also helping littles ones to learn how to express their emotions. Try adding a few drops of aromatherapy oils to the dough for an ultra-relaxing play dough experience.

Sensory Play

One of the best things about play dough is that it’s a very hands on activity. Using their hands and stimulating their senses is an ideal way for children to learn. Try make your own play dough and add various dried foods into the dough, such as rice, couscous or seeds, to change the texture. The addition of glitter or sequins to the mixture is an excellent visual stimulus, while the sense of smell can be easily roused by adding herbs and spices to your homemade dough.

The world of play dough will bring children endless enjoyment. Be creative and try out different things when you’re making the mix; see what your toddler responds to best and run with it.

Author Bio: Sam Flatman is an outdoor learning specialist and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play. Sam has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the school curriculum.

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