Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Play Dough Play!

It's almost never too early to introduce your child to play dough. As long as they are able to sit up on their own and can manipulate objects with their hands, they're old enough to give it a try! That's not saying you have to; I didn't try it with Little C until she was almost a year old. It's important to note, though, that play dough not only involves your supervision (you never know when that little explorer will decide to give it a taste!) but some interaction as well. Children don't inherently know what to do with play dough, you have to show them! Here are some tips on encouraging early play dough play and my favorite homemade play dough recipe (I like knowing what exactly is in it, not just that it says "nontoxic").

The first things your baby will be able to do with play dough is rip and smush. If you give them some basic tools (rolling pin, plastic knife, plastic cookie cutters...) they can see what happens if you smush with different objects. Little C likes to watch me make something, as long as she gets it as soon as I'm done! When your tot or toddler is better able to control their hand movements, you can help them roll the rolling pin back and forth, slide the knife to slice and start making basic shapes - ball, pancake and log. To make a ball roll the dough around in your hands saying "round, round." For the pancake, flatten with your hands saying "flat, flat." And for the log, roll back and forth between your hands saying "roll, roll." Saying round, flat and roll gives helps build vocabulary and provides your child with a verbal cue that will help them remember what to do (it's similar to us repeating "right at the light, second left" to remember those directions we were just given!).

If your child is intent on eating the play dough or poking her eyes with the rolling pin, change activities! Exposure and experience are the focus here so follow your child's cues. If they don't seem ready for it, or just aren't in the mood for it, try again another time. It's all about playing safe and having fun!

Play Dough
½ cup flour
¼ cup salt
½ cup water
½ tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cream of tartar
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Cook over low heat, stirring until dough forms and pulls away from sides of the pot. Remove the dough from the heat and allow it to cool before using.
Add food coloring to the pot or make a large batch, split into smaller balls and color individually. Store in a zip-top bag or airtight container.


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