Question: Can toddlers use play dough? Or are they still too young to play with this sculptural material?
Answer: Yes… toddlers can use play dough if they are developmentally ready. Your child will be emotionally and mentally prepared for using this sculptural material when:
– Your toddler no longer puts everything they touch into their mouth.
– The child listens to (and follows) simple instructions.
– The child reacts immediately when told to stop.
– Your toddler tries to imitate what you do.
– Your child can sit still and focus on one activity for a short period of time.
For some children, this may be around 20 months. For others, it may be 2 or even 3 years old.
As a parent, when introducing play dough to your toddler, you will need to prepare a few items in advance. First, make sure that the dough your child will be playing with is non-toxic (most children’s doughs are, but check to be safe). Use a good quality dough – either a brand like PlayDoh, or make your own easy, homemade version. Check out some recipes for homemade play dough here at Family Education. Lastly, you may want to put down a table-covering over the place your child will be playing.
Be aware that when you first give play dough to your child, they have no idea what it is or what to do; you must teach your toddler how to play with it. Adult supervision will be required at all times – never leave your toddler alone with play dough.
After all is prepared, here are five main steps you will need to take to ensure a successful play experience:
1. Skip the elaborate and fancy tools – When your toddler is just learning about play dough, they don’t need to use any of the play tools, cutouts, machines or instruments. All a beginner needs is dough. If you can’t resist, let them use a simple plastic cookie cutter.
2. Give your child one color of dough – If you have a multi-pack of colored doughs, give your toddler one container to play with at a time. If you allow them to choose, their attention may be diverted from actually playing with the dough to exploring the packages, demanding other colors, etc.
3. Teach your toddler easy sculpture skills through demonstration– The most basic skills needed for using play dough include learning how to roll a coil (snake), roll a ball, and flatten the dough. Rolling a coil is done by placing it on the table and rolling your palm (one or both hands) over it to stretch the dough into a ‘snake.’ Show your toddler how to roll a ball by cupping dough between their palms and rolling them around. Flatten dough simply by placing it on the table and pressing with your palm.
4. Demonstrate appropriate play behaviors – Teach your toddler to keep the dough in one small work area, and be sure to correct your child if/when they begin to throw dough or bring it toward their mouth. Praise them when they are using the play dough appropriately.
5. Know when to quit and clean up – When your toddler’s attention span fades, retire the dough. Even if it’s only been a few minutes into the play session, remember that you are only introducing this activity. Do not force them to continue when they don’t want to – you will only set yourself up for frustrations and meltdowns. Lastly, teach your child to participate in cleanup. Show how to take a big lump of dough and tap it on top of ‘crumbs’ to pick them up. Your toddler can then help put away or wash tools, and fold up the tablecloth.
So can toddlers use play dough? Yes, and they should! However, remember a few key points:
1. Your child must be developmentally ready.
2. You must supervise the entire time and teach your toddler what to do.
Source: Family Education – homemade play dough recipes