Opening new containers of play-dough can quicken the hearts of both preschoolers and moms. Nothing compares to the sight of that brightly-colored cylinder of dough, or the smell of it–like a plastic muffin. The best part? Mom gets a little quiet time while the kids are practicing small-motor skills and engaging in creative, unstructured play. Don’t let anybody move from that table until you check the floor for fallen bits of dough. Once little feet grind that stuff in the carpet, it really ruins the mood.
Pounding, slapping and squishing play-dough all count as sensory-play activities. Preschool age children delight in the freedom to take a block or a ball of dough and bash it to smithereens. Let them giggle at the sounds the dough makes as it smooshes through little clenched fists, or as they slap at a play-dough pancake to flatten it. Ask them to describe the sounds they make with the dough and the way it feels on their hands. Brace yourself for the answers.
Suggest the kids make letters, numbers or shapes from the dough. After a bit of experimenting with rolling play-dough, preschoolers quickly figure out how to make a long “snake” of dough. If they need your help, teach them to roll a blob of play-dough with both hands as they gently push down and pull their hands apart. No one will tell on you if you make some long play-dough ropes for them, either. Ooh and aah over every effort preschoolers make to create hearts, squares and circles. Help them make letters. Teach them to make the words “I LOVE MOM,” then photograph this masterpiece to hang on the the fridge, front and center.
Dig around in the kitchen drawers for objects kids can push into slightly flattened play-dough to create impressions. Use plastic cups, measuring spoons or sturdy plastic forks. Even your collection of cookie-cutters can make impressions in the dough. If you don’t feel like spending an hour picking leftover play-dough from the objects you gave the kids, the impressions activity is still possible. Fingers and thumbs work perfectly. Also, every mother knows that there is something magical about the sight of the impression of her child’s small hand.
To get kids excited for a sculpture activity, roll play-dough balls in all sizes. Sculpt snowmen, snow-women and entire snow-families. Do not allow play-dough snowball fights (the subject will come up). Give your preschoolers each a big ball of the dough and sit, very still, at the table so they can sculpt your face. Squish these up before any other adult sees them, then put the play-dough away.