Playdough activities are a great way to help your child develop fine motor skills as well as bilateral coordination skills! There are many other benefits as well - read on to find out how to get the most out of playdough.
From an occupational therapy perspective, playdough has a lot of benefits.
Here are just a few:
Playdough provides a great sensory medium, which is can be used to help children who struggle with sensory processing disorder.
Sensory seeking children can squish, squash, pound and gloop the playdough to give themselves lovely proprioceptive and tactile feedback.
Using a well cooked , non-sticky homemade playdough can be helpful for children who are usually over sensitive to tactile experiences.
The sensory experience of playdough can be enhanced by adding a drop of an appropriate essential oils such as lavender to add an aroma (first make sure that your child is not sensitive to any of the oils you use).
Or add more tactile stimulation by hiding small objects that can be felt for and dug out of a big blob of playdough. (Please take sensible precautions with small children as these can be a choking hazard.)
Playdough play can help develop coordination skills. Your child will use hand-eye coordination to cut, poke and prod the playdough and when using cookie cutters in the dough.
I personally use playdough a lot to help promote bilateral coordination skills - here's how:
Pounding and Squashing are great bilateral activities if they are done with both hands together. They are also good for proprioception!
Encourage your child to pound a ball of playdough to flatten it.
Try an alternating rhythm as shown, or both hands at the same time (symmetrical movements).
If this is hard for your child, do just a little pounding and then move on to squashing the flattened dough into a blob again.
Repeat the pounding and squashing a few times before moving onto other activities.
Break off blobs of playdough and roll them between two hands as shown to make balls.
If your child struggles, put your hands over the top and guide the movements.
Use both hands to roll out a long piece of playdough as shown. This can become sausages, worms, snakes, spaghetti...
Or make a coil pot as this child is doing.
If your child struggles with these bilateral playdough activities, try some other bilateral coordination activities at home.
Manipulating playdough helps to strengthen hand muscles and develop control over the fingers. Snipping playdough sausages helps develop scissor cutting skills.
There are also specific activities that can also promote skilled use of the tripod fingers, which can help develop pencil control and better handwriting.
The playdough activities below are specifically for helping to develop dexterity in the hand and fingers.
First, I isolate the thumb, index and middle fingers (the tripod fingers) by popping a
piece of paper under the ring and little fingers of the dominant hand.
Make a pinch pot:
Take a ball of playdough, insert the thumb in the centre of a ball, and use the index
and middle fingers to pinch the outside of the pot.
Rolling small balls:
Again, I isolate the tripod 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 non-dominant hand (which is usually less skilled than your dominant hand), you may get a feel of how demanding this task can be!
Have fun using playdough to fit a theme...
I recommend various playdough activities on different pages of my site - and this free mini-e-book pulls them all together in one convenient, printable download.
You will get 6 pages of photographed activities plus my own favorite playdough recipe!
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I hope you were inspired by all the ways your child can benefit from playing with playdough!
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