I personally like to use homemade play dough for young children this age since, let’s face it, there is still a chance they will try to taste it. Here is the recipe I often use (and if you need one, here is a wonderful gluten-free play dough recipe I’ve used in therapy). There is also the play-dough-on-the-floor element in addition to the play-dough-in-the-mouth issue. It’s not as big of an issue if and when it ends up on the floor and in the garbage because homemade recipes often generate several times the quantity you’d receive in a store-bought cup.
Playing with play dough encourages sensory exploration as well as the use and development of fine motor skills, among other developmental advantages.
Specific fine motor skills encouraged in the activities listed below include:
Shoulder and arm strengthening:
Play dough pushing, slamming, and pulling apart all help build shoulder and arm strength, which aids in the improvement of hand abilities.
Using the thumb and index finger to pinch
The ability to control one finger at a time (such as the index finger for pointing and pushing).
Thumb opposition: Helping to retain, squeeze, and tighten the gap between the thumb and index finger by coordinating the thumb with the other fingers (known as the “web space”).
Digital pronate grasp:
Using the fingers (digits) to grasp something, like a toothpick, while the palm or forearm is pointing downward (pronated). This is a forerunner to the well-known tripod hold and is completely acceptable and anticipated in toddlers.
Includes synchronizing hand motions with what the eyes are perceiving; this process is referred to as “visual-motor integration.”
Coordinating the use of two hands to complete an activity, such as performing the same job with both hands or supporting an object with one hand while manipulating or working with the other.
10 fun play dough activities ideas for kids:
- With your hands, smash it. A fantastic chance for sensory investigation.
- Use a tool to smash it. There are several varieties of potato smashers, and they all function effectively.
- Separate it. This is a fantastic practice exercise for later learning how to tear paper.
- Use your hands to roll it. At this age, don’t anticipate that your child will be able to roll a ball with smooth motions. Help them practice making an oblong shape by simply rolling the play dough back and forth (snake, worm, hot dog, whatever you want to call it). They can try rolling it back and forth while the play dough is on the table, or they can do it between their hands as seen in the illustration below (using either one or both hands).
- Use a tool to roll it. Either immediately on top of the rolling pin or on the outside handles are acceptable placements for hands. Both employing adult-sized rolling pins (as seen below) and child-sized play dough rolling pins has advantages and disadvantages. Do you not possess a rolling pin? Instead, roll with the hard cup’s side.
- Make use of cutters. For children at this developmental stage, I like using biscuit cutters with handles (as seen below), since they are simple to hold and press down on. However, you may also use standard cookie cutters. Do you not have any cookie cutters nearby? Simply turn an open cup over and demonstrate to your child how to push it into the play dough to form circles.
- Use your fingers to poke it. A great method to explore and develop your index fingers.
- Use golf tees to poke it. The fact that golf tees are not sharp and are the perfect size for infants’ hands makes them fantastic. Do you not possess golf tees? Use cut-in-half straws as an alternative (thicker straws meant for milkshakes or smoothies might be easier at this stage).
- Use toothpicks to poke it. For older kids who have mastered the pincer grasp and are at ease handling longer tools, toothpicks are a useful tool (as opposed to pellet-shaped items). Obviously, toothpicks have sharp, pointed edges, so use caution as needed. Do you not possess any toothpicks? After that, cut several Q-tips in half and use them as golf tees by having your youngster hold the bulb end and poke with the cut end. You may begin by teaching your 18-month-old child how to form vertical and horizontal markings in the play dough in addition to just poking.You might also use a fork rather than a toothpick to practice fork use (as long as they don’t try to really eat the play dough, of course), as toddlers learn to feed themselves with a fork in the later toddler months. These kid-friendly forks are great for beginners to use forks.
- Add little trinkets to decorate it. For both motor skills and choking avoidance considerations, I generally advise waiting until your child is closer to 18 to 24 months old and older before trying this one. The ability to hold and press down larger objects, such giant googly eyes, will be easier than it is with tiny objects, like little eyes, coins, and beads. Older toddlers could enjoy searching through a lump of play dough for partially (or completely) concealed objects like coins or beads. Just be careful when choosing objects that you know your child won’t put in their mouth.