January is upon us and it certainly has brought lots of cold temperatures along with it! As we stay inside to keep warm, I’d like to offer some suggestions to keep the fun and learning indoors until the warmer weather arrives.
Play dough. The material is easy to make, fun to manipulate, and playing with it addresses all of the critical domains of growth and development. If you want to get fancy, you can engage your child in looking around the house to find some things to bring into your dough play. Cookie cutters are a go-to, but unusual kitchen items such as bottle caps, forks, and rolling pins can also encourage imagination and problem solving. Follow your child’s lead and experiment with how the utensils change the shape, texture, or look of the dough.
Before I get ahead of myself, I want to give you a recipe to make the play dough. Like baking, making play dough with your child is a learning experience in and of itself! For making play dough, you will need:
· 1 cup water
· 1 pkt. Kool-Aid
· 6 cups flour
· 1 cup vegetable oil
· Measuring cups
· Mixing bowl
· Wooden spoon
1. In a bowl, mix water and food coloring.
2. Add flour.
3. Add oil.
4. Stir together.
5. Knead until smooth in texture.
Encourage language by talking through the steps with your child. First we will pour; second we will stir, mix, and knead. Your sneaking in ordinal words in context. Providing children with hands-on experiences along with the words will help those words to stick. Use words that describe the mixture as it changes; pointing out how the ingredients transform as others are added: mushy, wet, smooth, and dry. Making play dough together not only gives real-life opportunities to provide language, but also adds science concepts as the children observe the processes that take place.
Math concepts are introduced next—at the good part; manipulating the dough. As you play together, point out big and small sizes and shapes that are created. Challenge your child to sort the items you’ve made into categories. Compare the lengths of the snakes that you roll. Thinking about these ideas will prepare them for more complex math concepts in the future.
While you are exercising the fine motor muscles of the fingers by pinching and poking the play dough, you are also teaching the social skills of sharing, cooperation, and perhaps turn taking. All of these foundational skills will benefit your child as they go to school: fine motor skills encourage the strength needed to write and draw, turn taking sets your child up for social success with peers.
Make believe or pretend play is also encouraged by play dough. Anything from a pizza party to a fire breathing dragon is possible with imagination and creativity. Talk with your child while manipulating the dough and you might be surprised by what you learn as they express themselves through the material. Play is the work of young children, so why not learn and have fun?