The benefits of playdough
I have always found playdough to be a source of great interest to children. It is fun and can help restless or overstimulated children to relax by providing them with a tactile and sensory outlet that can be soothing. Adding a scent to the playdough enlists the olfactory senses and creates a further sensory dimension for children. It can also create an atmosphere and depending on the day you may choose to use lavender which can have a calming effect or possibly orange or lemon which can help to energise or regenerate.
Children are natural born learners and will always seek to learn new skills or strengthen their existing skills. Playdough can help children to strengthen their fine motor muscles. Greater muscle strength helps them to refine their movement and their coordination leading to the ability to willingly manipulate the playdough as they wish. This gain in muscle control and dexterity can be really beneficial to the child as they take their first steps into the land of penmanship. Interacting and playing with the Playdough over a period of time will also help to build the child's concentration.
Some children like to use utensils to manipulate the playdough, while others will simply like to use their hands. This experimentation of manipulation helps children to grasp the abstract concept of cause and effect. They begin to understand that if they roll the playdough with a roller it will become flat but if they roll the playdough in the palm of their hands it will become round.
Playdough also promotes creativity and the use of imagination. Once the child has gained enough muscle strength and has gained the ability to start to manipulate the playdough, the child will have to use their imagination to think of what they would like to make from that playdough. If perhaps they chose to make a bridge and decided to bridge together their desk with the desk beside them then they have used their imagination to think of such an idea. However if you have ever used playdough before, you will know that playdough is soft and heavy and not the best marital for structural composition. Through experimentation the children might find that the playdough is unable to hold its shape and so, they are unable to make the bridge using their original idea. It is then up to the children to think of some creative solutions to help solve the problem. An example of this might be that they could decide to use a different material to form a solid base. They could then use the playdough to build the bridge upon the solid base.
How to make Scented Playdough
What you need: A large bowl and a wooden/large spoon for mixing
1- 1.5 cups of plain Flour
4 large tbsp of Water
A large glug of Oil
4 tsp of table salt
For the scent
For the lavender: I picked a few sprigs of fresh lavender from my garden. I let it dry for a week and then used 2-3 sprigs and folded it into the dough.I have also used rosemary and dried this out too before using it. However if I use mint or a delicate herb that won't dry well, I will put this in fresh. With essential oils, I tend to use these sparingly because I find that a little goes a long way. I will only use 1-2drops depending on the strength of the smell of the oil.
All of these herbs, and oils can be tailored to your liking this is only my preference of how strong I like them to smell.
For the cinnamon playdough: I used 2tsps of ground cinnamon, but again you can vary this to your liking. You can also swap this out with any other spice that you like. For example, I made turmeric, cinnamon, clove and cumin playdough as part of a smelling set for my class and they all smelt great. And as an added bonus, because they were only slightly different in colour the activity also took on the form of a grading exercise from light to lightest or from dark to darker.
You can use a food dye if you wish to colour the playdough. This might be nice, especially if you are choosing to use an essential oil, but remember the dye counts as liquid and if you are hoping to make a deep or vibrant colour you end up adding more than you think you would. The essential oils can be quite oily so be sure to adjust the oils and water in the recipe to accommodate for the extra oil or water that you have added.
Add all the dry ingredients into the bowl. Thats the flour, salt and spice/herbs. Then add the oil and give the mix a small stir. Start gradually adding the water bit by bit while stirring the mixture with a spoon. If the dough becomes too wet add a small handful of flour. Once the ingredients have all combined together, you can then sprinkle flour down on a flat dry surface and begin to kneed the dough for a minute or two. If the dough doesn't seem bouncy enough, add a small bit more salt and kneed it into the dough. Now its ready to use.
If you leave the dough out over night it forms a slightly hardened shell. It is possible to keep it for a day or two as long as you don't mind having to remove the hardened outer layer each day or having a slightly lesser quality dough.
To help preserve it for longer, I recommend you to place it into a zip lock bag in the fridge, making sure that you remove all the air from the bag before you close it.You can take it out each day and it should stay fresher for longer.
It is possible to freeze this dough because it is only a salt dough but for best results and because it only takes minutes to make, I find its nicer to make it fresh.
A little added tip
Include the child. I used to make playdough for my class quite often and I always included them in the process of making it. I found that the children were often just as interested in making the playdough as they were playing with it. Having the opportunity to pour the flour or the water or having the chance to stir and mix the ingredients together promoted turn taking and patience. It also provided them with a sensory experience when they felt the wet dough and then the dry dough. Making the playdough seemed to provide the children with a sense of accomplishment, perhaps because they made the playdough themselves. When you think about it, there is often nothing better then the feeling of being productive because you have actually learnt how to make something that you love to use rather than just having something provided for you.
And that's all my lovelies, hope you have fun making the playdough and changing up the scents. Let me know how you get on and defiantly leave me a comment if you come across a mind blowing creation.