One of my favorite memories is my mother making play dough for us. Granted, it was a long time ago and my memories are spotty. But I do remember using play dough at the table in my house.
Other memories are the kids in my class using play dough. In the times of screens and apps, kids still enjoy using play dough - molding it, cutting it, smashing it.
Here are a few things we've learned about play dough:
1. Make it yourself.
Store-bought play dough is great. The scent of certain play dough smells like childhood. But we've found that our homemade play dough lasts longer and seems to be easier to use. Plus you can make it any color (or no color) and make as much as you want or need. Simple ingredients and simple preparation mean that new play dough can be only minutes away. Our favorite recipe is here.
2. Make it in the classroom.
We sometimes make play dough with kids in the classroom as a learning experience. Bring ingredients. Mix them together. Cook in an electric skillet. And you can have fresh play dough created by the young chefs and scientists in your classroom.
3. Place mats are your friends.
We have used play dough on tables and trays for years. Then, one day, we acquired some translucent place mats. (Sorry, I don't remember where.) Now we put them out on the table before using play dough. Mrs. Cindy always tapes the corners or sides to keep them from shifting during work time. Now clean-up is easier and every child has his own space for working.
4. Fancy tools are not needed.
We have some play dough and clay tools in our room--plastic pizza cutters, rolling pins, and shaping tools. But mostly we use repurposed and improvised tools. We use frosting spreaders, small spatulas, plastic utensils, and other simple kitchen gadgets with our play dough. Plastic lids make create "cookie cutters." Craft sticks work well to cut the dough and to carve in it. Sometimes we add plastic animals or people to make prints, shaped cookie cutters to cut shapes, and even rubber stamps to press in designs. Just about anything could become a play dough tool. And, of course, our fingers are the best tools!
5. We can create in different ways.
Slide a word or outline shape under your translucent place mats or in plastic sheet protectors. Kids can form play dough "snakes" and use those to create words or shapes on the lines. Add smooth stones or floral marbles for additional creative possibilities. Display pictures of animals or plants and encourage kids to create sculptures. I once formed a cube from a small ball of dough. Some kids were intrigued and experimented with 3-D shapes for a while. One group of girls years ago decided to explore physics by creating different sizes of balls and seeing how size impacted bouncing. (Which size would bounce higher?)
Play dough is a versatile learning tool. What tips and tricks have you discovered as you have used it?
A few of my play dough links--
Favorite Things: Play Dough
Homemade Play Dough
Essence of Creativity
Play Dough Inspiration
Play Dough post on PreK and K Sharing