Play dough is a fantastic tool for supporting young children’s learning and development. It is an interactive, open-ended activity that gives children a chance to be creative. Play dough promotes growth in all learning domains, including cognitive, physical, language, and social-emotional.
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of play dough in early childhood.
Why is play dough good for child development?
For toddlers, play dough is an important material to promote fine motor skills and stimulate sensory systems. Playing with dough is a chance to build language by naming objects and sharing creations. Discover fun play dough activities for toddlers.
Play dough is important for preschoolers because it can be used creatively and promotes self-regulation skills. Play dough activities are a chance to practice problem-solving and collaborating with peers. Preschoolers can manipulate dough and use play dough tools to build fine motor skills.
For early elementary students, play dough can be a bridge activity to introduce art materials such as molding and pottery clay.
Cognitive Benefits of Play Dough
Is playdough good for cognitive development?
Play dough is a great tool for promoting brain development and cognitive skills.
Along with problem-solving skills, children will also learn about cause and effect. Every time a child touches play dough with their hands or an object, an imprint is left on it.
Play dough is also an imaginative play activity since it is an open-ended material. Children can discover their own creative ways to use play dough and play dough tools.
- Watches and copies an adult or peer
- Plays with more than one toy at the same time
- Holds something in one hand while using the other hand
- Makes observations
- Experiments with how things work
- Predicts outcomes
- Uses imagination in play
- Uses objects and materials to represent something else during play
- Shows eagerness to try new things
Sensory Benefits of Play Dough
How does play dough help in sensory play?
Play dough is a sensory activity that can stimulate multiple sensory systems!
The dough’s texture stimulates the somatosensory (tactile or touch) system. When children squeeze and press play dough, they stimulate the body’s proprioceptive system that senses pressure and force. Scented play dough will stimulate the olfactory (smell) system.
- Uses senses to make observations
- Handles or explores objects or materials in different ways depending on information about properties
- Combines information gained through senses to understand objects and experiences
- Adjusts ways of interacting with materials based on sensory and perceptual information
- Demonstrates awareness of own body
Physical Benefits of Play Dough
Playing with dough helps children build strength and dexterity in their hands and fingers. Dough activities are also an opportunity to practice hand-eye coordination.
Because play dough is open-ended, children can interact with dough at whatever level they are ready for. Toddlers or children developing hand coordination may only squeeze and press the dough. Other children may be ready to manipulate dough using play dough tools.
- Coordinates hands and eyes to manipulate objects and materials
- Coordinates using both hands to put things together
- Adjusts grasp with ease to new tools and materials
- Uses pincer grasp
- Uses hand tools in a variety of ways and to complete tasks
Emotional Benefits of Play Dough
The emotional benefits of play dough relate to sensory stimulation. Pressing play dough helps connect the nerves in the hands to the brain. This activity can help regulate emotions and relax the brain and body.
Children can also process emotions through pretend play. Play dough gives children a chance to act out scenarios. This may look like role-playing a meal made from play dough food or creating a small world using toys and play dough.
- Pretends to be something else during play
- Plans play scenarios
- Expresses range of emotions
- Shows awareness of self including own body, abilities, thoughts, and feelings
- Demonstrates initiative by making choices or expressing preferences
Social Benefits of Play Dough
No matter their stage of play development, children can build social skills during play dough activities. Children can practice communicating their feelings and requests to peers or adults. Older children may collaborate during play dough activities or create games with rules.
- Pointing to show something interesting
- Notices other children and joins them to play
- Engages in social and pretend play
Language Benefits of Play Dough
While playing with dough, children have the chance to learn new vocabulary (see below!). Children can talk to peers or adults, describing their actions and sharing their creations.
Adults can encourage language using open-ended questions such as:
- “What are you going to create next?”
- “You’re right; that didn’t work. What else could you try?”
- “Tell me about what you made!”
- Follows direction
- Talks in a conversation using back-and-forth exchanges
- Answers simple questions
- Asking questions about what things are, how they are used, and what is happening
- Communicates needs
- Learns from communication with others
Words to Describe Play Dough
Play dough activities are an opportunity to introduce new vocabulary to kids.