Written by: Jennifer Fantich, M.A., CCC-SLP
Play Dough is such a fun, tactile, tool to use for play and language stimulation with kids. There are so many fun, easy (and virtually mess contained) games and activities you can use with your kids at home, whether indoors or outside, to have fun and promote language and learning.
Have fun exploring some of our favorites!
Play Dough SMASH!
This a is a fun activity that can be used to practice vocabulary, target speech sounds, or just help to promote pragmatic turn taking. You can use a book with lots of pictures (pages that are laminated, or board books are preferred with this activity to help preserve the pages and pictures), picture cards, or print off a grid of pictures and place them in a plastic sleeve. We like to prep this game to make the game go quickly (which is helpful, especially with toddlers). In order to prep, roll Play dough into quarter size balls. Place them aside. Use one at a time.
If you are using this game for turn-taking, you can simply ask your toddler to, “find the elephant” or “find the apple” or “find the house”. Once they find the targeted picture, place the quarter-sized, Play Dough ball on the picture and count to 3…”1..2..3!” On the count of 3, yell “Play Dough SMASH!” Your toddler can then use the palm of their hand or their fist to smash the Play Dough flat onto the picture. Then ‘switch turns’; to promote the importance of turn-taking, you can ask your child, “Who’s turn is it now?”
For specific language practice, using pictured objects, you can ask “find me something that is red.” Or “find something that can fly.” Or “ find something that lives in the water.” You can also be more discrete when working with little ones by asking, “find the bunny rabbit” or “find the apple” or “find the car”. Once your child finds the picture, they can put the ball of Play Dough on it and count “1..2..3..Play-doh SMASH!”
The same patterns apply for working on specific sounds; you’ll just want to use pictures, cards or a grid that targets these sounds easily. As the child finds the picture you describe or ask them to find, they can practice saying the word. For example, if the target sound is /s/ you can prompt them by telling them to “keep their tongue behind their teeth” and say “sock”. Once they have achieved accuracy, you can have them place the ball of Play-doh on the targeted picture and count, “1..2..3..Play Dough SMASH!”
This is a fun activity to help kids with letter practice. Roll play dough into alphabet letters. Kids can try to do the entire alphabet or stick to one letter at a time. This is a fun activity to help them roll out the letters in their name as well! If you wanted an extension activity, you could give your child a sound (‘ssssss’) and see if they can roll out the letter that makes the sound. This is good phonemic awareness practice. You could also give your child a word and have them roll out the beginning letter of the word (Apple) the final sound in the word (Dog) to help them attend to language concepts of first and last while also focusing on letter sounds.
Try having your kids work together to create a Play Dough restaurant, lemonade stand, candy shop, pizza parlor, jewelry store, etc. See how creative the kids can get and encourage them to work together to problem solve. If kids are having a hard time agreeing on a pretend concept to create, try writing out their ideas on index cards or sticky notes. Have each child (blindly) choose a card, one at a time, and set a timer for each concept. That way, everyone has the opportunity to create their own pretend play idea(s) for play.
Quantitative concepts are important in language and to learning. There are so many fun, printable materials available that can help facilitate play and functional learning. I love these math mats from TPT.
Have kids use Play Dough to count out apple seeds. You can compare and contrast seeds (numbers) on mats once kids have a chance to count out their Play-doh. “Which one is MORE?” Which one is LESS” How many more seeds are on this apple than THAT apple?” How can you make them equal?”
Make your own Play Dough
This is such a fun way to experience Play Dough! Kids can choose their own colors and be part of the process. Make sure to allow kids the opportunity to count, measure and add to the recipe. If they want to get creative with color, you can even facilitate a primary/secondary color activity into this one!
Follow this recipe and have fun!