7 ways to use Play Dough for therapy activities at home!

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7 ways to use Play Dough for therapy activities at home!

Play Dough is one of the most versatile tools that therapists can have in their ‘bag of tricks’. It has appeal for people of all ages, not just young children.

Here is a list of ways Play Dough can be used as fun and effective therapy activity, whether at home, school or in a clinical setting:

  1. Fine motor development - Play dough can be bought or made to have different textures and levels of firmness. Even the softest, most pliable doughs can encourage exercising finger, hand and arm muscles, to increase strength, muscle tone, coordination and range of motion. Pinching, poking, squeezing, stretching and squashing firm Play Dough are all fun ways to exercise. Children will love finding hidden items and pushing things into it, e.g. beads or dried beans, sticks, drinking straws, macaroni, plastic figurines.


  2. Language Development - Any kind of play is wonderful for developing language skills of children. With demonstrations from parents or caregivers, children can improve understanding of concepts, build vocabulary, increase the length of phrases and so much more. Around 4 years of age, children like to help make the Play Dough, helping you to measure, pour, mix and colour the play dough. This teaches your child about concepts such as wet/dry, full/empty, hot/cold, etc. This can also provide opportunities for answering and asking questions and problem solving: “What do we need? What will happen next?

    While playing, caregivers can model and narrate a variety of actions, exposing children to new words, e.g. cutting, squeezing, pushing, pulling, rolling, hiding, and printing. Now your child is increasing the verbs they understand and use, and it will be easier for them to combine that verb with an object or a subject, e.g. "squeeze dough" or "squash ball" or “roll snake” or "Mommy squeeze".


  3. Sensory Input - Having tangible versatile products with different textures provides a wonderful sensory experience. Children can see different colours and glitter, feel soft or solid beads and toys hidden within, smell different scents e.g. bubblegum,  peppermint or vanilla essence. Some young children will also be tempted to taste Play Dough, but in the interest of health and hygiene, this should be discouraged. Many homemade Play Dough recipes contain heaps of salt to produce an unpalatable dough which discourages further tasting. 


  4. Imagination, Story-telling and Pretend Play - Children will use the dough as part of their imaginative play, e.g. pretending to make birthday cakes or pizza, people or animals. This type of play, as well as story-telling, is excellent for promoting imagination, narrative skills, and social skills through conversation between characters and participants.


  5. Literacy and Numeracy Development -  School aged children will still love to play and make shapes with dough. When they start learning maths and to read and write, children can roll the play dough into thin long sausages to make letters and numbers. Children can make their name, practice spelling other words and practice counting with their Play Dough letters and numbers. It can also be used to make geometric shapes.


  6. Relaxation and Mindfulness - Having a ball of Play Dough to squash or roll in the hands can be calming and relaxing for many people. Just like other fidget toys, it can be effective at reducing stress or anxiety, and help focus attention. For children with lots of energy, having something like Play Dough in their hands can help them to release energy in a contained manner while focusing on other tasks.


  7. Anger Release - Play Dough can provide a safe option for children to release frustration and anger. Rather than keeping uncomfortable emotions inside, children can make Play Dough creatures then smash and pound them. Alternatively, children can take out frustration by throwing Play Dough balls at a paper target.