To Improve School Skills
Playdough Activities are a great way to exercise the muscles of the hands to develop fine motor skills, and you can also develop your child’s bilateral coordination skills at the same time!
First of all, though, you need to get some decent playdough. And preferably a great big ball of it. I personally find those little pots of shop-bought play-dough very frustrating when their lovely colours end up getting mixed together into brown gloop by little hands, so I am very much in favour of a nice big batch of homemade play-dough that lasts forever! (Unless, of course, your baby drools all over it…). So try my homemade playdough recipe– it is easy and lasts for ages!
My kids love all the traditional playdough paraphernalia, like rollers, shape cutters and the like, but I personally find that the best playdough activities are those when you have nothing but playdough to work with. By all means keep the paraphernalia, but let the kids play with it AFTER you have spent some time in focused activity with them.
First, open your Playdough Activities session with some pounding and squashing! It is a great tension reliever, and if your child ever takes up pottery at a later stage, they will have a head start on techniques!
Encourage your child to pound the playdough with both hands, in an alternating rhythm. If this is hard for them (it demands bilateral coordination), praise them when they get it right and move on to the next squashing if they are getting frustrated.
The idea is that you pound the ball flat, squash it up into a ball again, pound it again and then make another ball. Lots of fun, laughs and bilateral coordination! And the squashing helps to strengthen the hand muscles.
Basic Techniques for Playdough Activities:
|Rolling large and medium balls: use both hands to develop bilateral coordination|
|Rolling sausages: again, good for bilateral coordination if you use both hands|
|Pinch pots: First, I isolate the thumb, index and middle fingers by popping a piece of paper under the ring and little fingers. This is good to help the 3 handwriting fingers to work together. For a playdough pinchpot, only do this for the dominant hand (ie right hand if your child is right handed)|
|Pinch Pots: Then insert thumb in the centre of a ball, and use the index and middle fingers to pinch the outside of the pot. This is a great fine motor activity. It is also good for getting the two hands to work together in a coordinated way – one supports and one does the delicate work.|
|Rolling small balls: Again, I isolate the 3 handwriting fingers and then those 3 fingers work together to roll small balls. |
The last activity of rolling small balls with 3 fingers, can be very tricky for a child who has poor fine motor skills, so give lots of encouragement and praise. If you roll the balls yourself with your left hand (if you are right handed), you may get a feel of how demanding this task can be! For more information on why I encourage those 3 fingers to work together, see my article on Finger Exercises.
So, what other playdough activities can you do with these techniques?
Let your imagination run wild, depending on your theme for the day and your child’s imagination!
You can use medium sized balls to make a segmented caterpillar.
Or roll out lots of long thin sausages to make a playdough coil pot as this girl is doing.
Use a pinchpot as a “nest” and make small eggs to place in the nest. You could also make a “coil pot” nest for the eggs. Let your child sculpt a bird or reptile out of playdough to place on the nest.
You could also make a plate of food – long thin spaghetti, or sausages with chips and peas (fat sausages plus some short thin ones rolled with the fingers, and small round balls for peas).
Whatever you do, have fun, and don’t forget to allow your child some time to use his imagination and play with play-dough freely!
Return from Playdough Activities to Fine Motor Activities for more tips to help your child develop his fine motor skills.
Or check out Coordination Skills for more coordination games to help your child.
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