Pediatric Physical, Speech, and Occupational Therapists Inspiring Play

Wild Dough Co Play Dough | WTP All-Star Toy of the Month

Wild Dough Co Play Dough | WTP All-Star Toy of the Month

Play dough is one of the ultimate Walk Talk Play All Star toys! It has endless possibilities for play and naturally builds imagination and attention, all while preparing little hands for more complex skills, like pre-writing! This month we are bringing you our favorite ways to build pre-writing skills with Wild Dough Co Play Dough.  

Note: We have recently been selected by WildDoughCo to be brand reps and we are so excited! We love this company because it’s a female-owned small business, their play dough feels and SMELLS great, and it’s long-lasting. To check out Wild Dough, click our affiliate link here. If you make a purchase, we will receive a small commission that will help us continue to run our site!

Developmental Benefits of Play Dough

Stability in Hand

Little hands naturally shape and conform to the texture of play dough, which builds arches in the palm. Arches provide stability in the hand for grasp as well as mobility of the hand for using fingers in varying grasp and pinch patterns with graded control. Play dough also provides resistance, which means that all that squishing and rolling is building hand strength!

  • Mold, squeeze, and form dough into different shapes
  • Roll long cylinders of dough
  • Press dough with palms

Isolation of Digits and Varying Grasp Patterns:

The soft texture of play dough is perfect for using finger isolation to poke, and using fingers to pull small pieces apart. Isolation of digits helps littles to develop mature grasp for using tools. 

  • Flatten pieces of dough using one finger
  • Poke small objects, like beans, beads, or coins into play dough
  • Pull small pieces apart using finger and thumb

In-Hand Manipulation Skills:

In order for littles to become efficient at using tools, they need to develop in-hand manipulation skills. In-hand manipulation assists with orienting and adjusting tools in hands, as well as using small refined movement with a writing tool. 

  • Rolling a ball of dough on the table with one hand
  • Rolling one ball of dough with each hand on the table for a bilateral challenge
  • Rolling a ball of dough in the hand
  • Pressing and turning dough to flatten into a ‘pancake’
  • Rolling a flat piece of dough into a tube using fingers

Ways to Make Play Dough More Active

Play Dough play doesn’t have to be static and in a chair. Here are some fun ways you can make play dough more active and give your child opportunities to use their muscles!

Go Vertical!

For some extra muscle work, bring that play dough vertical! Vertical surfaces not only focus on shoulder activation and wrist extension, they also allow for increased visual attention. All great skills for future writers! 

In this activity we used letters to make imprints into the play dough. Then, we hid the letters throughout the house. Coco went on a letter hunt, and then practiced spelling her name.
Click here to find out how to make play dough letters!

Play Dough and Language Development

One of the reasons we love play dough so much is because of its versatility; it naturally targets a ton of skills, including language development! Just think about all of the words and concepts your little one can learn, simply by playing with play dough. See below for some “Talk Tips!”

Model New Vocabulary:

When you and your child are using play dough together, model new words and concepts! Build your child’s vocabulary by modeling a variety of word types, including the following:

  • Nouns – label your creations!
  • Verbs (e.g., cut, roll, push, smash, etc.)
  • Adjectives (e.g., big, small, long, short, flat, round, etc.)
  • Prepositions (e.g., on, off, in, out, over, under, in front, behind, etc.)
  • Pronouns (e.g., I, you, mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, etc.)

Use Expanded Sentences:

Creating and building with play dough is a great opportunity to expose your kiddo to more complex sentence structures. While you play, model complete sentences with appropriate grammar as you describe what you and your child are doing/making, and expand on what your child says. Remember that you don’t need to directly correct your child; keep it light and casual, and focus on modeling without expecting your child to repeat your correction. Examples include the following:

  • Child: “Roll ball.” | Parent: “You’re rolling a ball.”
  • Child: “I cutted it.” | Parent: “Yes, you cut it.”

Practice Following/Giving Directions:

Continue to build understanding and use of language by playing games with play dough that include following/giving directions! A fun way to do this is with a “barrier game,” where you place a barrier (e.g., a book standing upright) between you and your child and try to build matching play dough creations by simply following instructions from one another (no peeking!). Games like this naturally increase understanding/use of the following:

  • Spatial concepts (e.g., under, behind)
  • Descriptive language (e.g., big, flat, round)
  • Ordinal language (e.g., first, then, last)
  • Expanded utterances (e.g., first make a small purple ball, then squish it)

Boost Imagination and Build Social Skills through Pretend Play:

Pretend play using play dough provides endless opportunities to boost imagination and build social skills. Use the dough on its own to create anything a little mind can imagine, while increasing skills like symbolic thinking, reasoning, and problem solving. You can also throw in extra props, like the play food set pictured above, to add to the creative possibilities (and language learning opportunities!). When you (or a sibling/friend) join in the play, you can expand your little one’s pretend play experience by suggesting/modeling new thoughts and ideas, and providing opportunities to practice various social skills, such as the following:

  • Sharing
  • Taking turns in play and conversation
  • Cooperating and collaborating with others

Check in throughout the month of November! We will be bringing you more pictures, videos, and play ideas to strengthen little hands!

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