Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Let's Play(dough)!

Did you know that today is National Playdough Day?  Either did I but know that I do, I am going to do some really fun activities with my kids at work today using playdough!  In discovering this fact, I stumbled upon this fun list of facts about playdough.  Here are the most interesting ones:

*Did you know that Play-doh was first sold as a way to clean wallpaper?  People could remove soot and dirt from wallpaper by rolling it along the surface!
*It wasn't until 1955 that Play-doh was sold in stores as a toy?  Up until then, it was only offered in an off white color.  Once it hit the shelves as a toy they added red, blue and yellow!
*Over 2 billion cans of Play-doh have been sold since it's introduction!

Kids love playdough...and oftentimes, so do their parents.  It's a great activity that can be done at home to work on all kinds of occupational therapy and developmental goals.  Most importantly, it seems more like play than work for the kids so they are not as resistant to it.  There are so many benefits to playing with playdough.  In addition to being a great way to improve fine motor skills, it can be used to work on the following skills:
*increase upper body (shoulder and arm) strength-all that heavy work of pushing, rolling, smashing, etc. is great for building strength.  Remember, fine motor skill development is dependent on good upper body strength
*improve bilateral coordination-use different kinds of tools when playing with playdough to work on using two hands together.  For example, get an old rolling pin and have them roll the playdough into a flat surface before using cookie cutters to make shapes and other pictures.  They need to be able to use two hands in order to pick up the cookie cutters and push the playdough out of it.  All of those fun playdough kids by Play-Doh often require the use of two hands as well.
*improve manipulation skills-playdough is a perfect tool for working on improving manipulation skills such as grasping skills and finger isolation.  Have kids pinch little balls of dough using their "pinchers" or work on pointing by using their pointer finger to squish a hole into each ball.
*improve social skills-i've run many social skills groups before, and playdough is always used.  I love having it as a warm-up activity when kids are trickling in.  Sometimes I let the kids make their own creations or can have them work on something together as a group.  For example, give each kid in a group a different color of the rainbow and have them work as a group to put the rainbow together.

Here is a simple, 4-ingredient playdough recipe you can do with your kids today.
You will need:
1/2 cup of iodized salt (do not use sea salt)
1/2 cup of water
1 cup of flour (for mixing in the dough) plus an additional 1/2 cup for sprinkling/kneading
Food Coloring (this is optional but kids love color!)

1.  Measure your ingredients (except the food coloring) and put them all into a large mixing bowl.
2.  Mix ingredients together with a spoon or spatula until it starts to stick together.
3.  Once the ingredients start to come together, put your food coloring in and mix it just until it has a swirly, marble-like experience.
4.  Sprinkle flour onto a dry surface and dump the dough out and use your hands to knead the dough together.  Once the color is evenly distributed, you can begin to play!
**to store dough, place in a zip-loc bag or an airtight container***

Playing with playdough is not only fun, but therapeutic.  It can be used in therapy sessions to work on a variety of goals.  The best part is that kids are having so much fun squishing, squeezing and creating, that they don't even realize that they are doing work.  Here are some of my favorite playdough activities that you can do with your children today to celebrate National Playdough Day!

*grab a rolling pin and a bunch of cookie cutters and begin playing.  This is great for working on improving bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination and increasing upper body and hand strength.  If you have a child who is struggling with learning shapes, numbers or letters, find some cookie cutters and work on it this way.
*roll playdough into ropes and have your kids cut the rope into little pieces with a pair of scissors.  Take a shape cookie cutter and gently press into a piece of flattened out playdough (do not push all the way through) and then have them cut the shapes out.  Great for working on improving scissor skills, bilateral coordination and strength.  
*check out this link here by a fellow OT blogger, MamaOT.  You will find 40 different playdough mats to use with your kids.  For those of you who are wondering what a playdough mat is:  they are pictures or drawing that have been laminated and encourage children to interact with the pictures using playdough.  For example, a child may need to "dress" a person, decorate butterfly wings or practice making the letters of the alphabet.  They can encourage kids to be creative and use their imagination while working on increasing hand strength and fine motor skills.  
*roll little pieces of playdough into balls and then have them pick them up and place them in a container using tongs.  This works on improving grasp strength, bilateral coordination and eye-hand coordination skills.  
*hide small beads, buttons or other manipulatives (I like to use these little animals from an old Mancala game of mine) and have the kids find them as fast as they can.  I remind my kids to pull the pieces out with their pinchers.  Once they have found all of the hidden pieces, have them hide them again for the next kid.  Great for working on improving grasp strength and manipulation skills, bilateral coordination and focus/attention.  

I have to admit, I love to play with playdough.  I love the way it feels in my hands, the way it smells and the way it can be used for a million different things (I will have to try the cleaning of wallpaper sometime).  My 5 1/2 year old daughter could play with it for hours on end.  However, my OCD definitely kicks in when people try and mix colors together!  In honor of National Playdough Day, I am going to challenge myself to pick up some fresh bottles of it for my daughter and play with her tonight and not worry for a second about mixing them up!

Do you have a wonderful activity to share using playdough?  A tried and true recipe you use with your kids that you would like to share.  I am just a click away and love hearing from you all!


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