Friday, September 16 is National Play Dough Day, which is the perfect excuse to make some homemade play dough. The main benefit of sensory play—activities that stimulate a child’s sense of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing— is that it’s one of the best ways children learn about the world around them.
By touching loose, malleable objects such as play dough children are discovering the concepts of mass, volume and dimension. There is also a language element to sensory play, when teachers or caregivers offer adjectives to describe textures a child is feeling they build up their vocabulary. Words such as ‘rough,’ ‘wet,’ ‘dry,’ ‘bumpy,’ and ‘smooth’ are often used during sensory play.
Play dough also helps develop children’s small motor skills and strength as they push, squish and mold it in their hands. Similar to adults who squeeze stress balls to relax, children who play with play dough or other malleable objects feel better emotionally.
The best part about playing with play dough is that there is plenty of room for mistakes, what started out as a snake can turn into a snail. There are no right or wrong answers and children learn to make mistakes in a safe environment. Celebrating and learning from their mistakes is an important skill for children to bring into school and adulthood.
In honor of National Play Dough Day, we’ve pulled a great play dough recipe from The Ooey Gooey Handbook by Lisa Murphy.
For more information on the importance of sensory play, check out Lisa Murphy on Play the Foundations of Children’s Learning by Lisa Murphy and Creating a Beautiful Mess: Ten Essential Play Experiences For a Joyful Childhood by Ann Gadzikowski.
Gadzikowski, Ann. Creating a Beautiful Mess: Ten Essential Play Experiences for a Joyous Childhood. St. Paul: Redleaf, 2015. Print.
Murphy, Lisa. Lisa Murphy on Play: The Foundation of Children’s Learning. St. Paul: Redleaf, 2016. Print.
Murphy, Lisa. “Playdough.” The Ooey Gooey Handbook: Identifying and Creating Child-centered Environments. St. Paul: Redleaf, 2001. 115. Print.