If in doubt- playdough. Every parent shares that frequent moment of “ach, quick brain, need to entertain him immediately!” and your brain responds with “chill, we got this, the playdoughs in the cupboard” and as you grab them and pop those lids in front of your grinning toddler, you and your brain share a little high five. No? Just me?
I love playdough, I did as a child and I do now as a parent. Its incredibly versatile as a play material and even more so when you throw an educational angle at it. Usually I’m all over any little thing I see out there that would enhance play time, glass pebbles for imaginative play ice, used with white playdough for example, I love playdough mats too!
However, when it comes to modelling objects with playdough, or any kind of creative reproduction with it, Squirrel can only do so much without guidance at 21 months old. So this is how we approach this kind of learning play. Immediate visual association with linked tools with the playdough bring together a special activity that enhances a theme with specific subjects, focusing on identification as well as a number of other skills.
Here are 3 festive themed ideas that you can work with, with suggested tools, videos to search for and guided brain-fizzers.
By chance I found this penguin and this wulrus in a 50p bucket in a gift shop a few months ago, perfect!
We enjoyed creating snowy landscapes with clear glass pebbles, and creating flipper tracks in the snow in lines, experimenting with different amounts of force needed to create a clear imprint without pushing all the way through. Granted, these two critters are unlikely to meet in the wild, one in the arctic ocean and the other in the Antarctica, but these two got on pretty well. When hes older I’ll be more specific on habitats and boundaries.
We matched this activity with video clips of penguin documentaries, walrus documentaries and an episode of pingu- though this could take Happy Feet to another level for a themed day!
In terms of tools we went pretty minimal with a rolling pin and a couple of different sized stars. We did a little stacking with our cut stars and played at pressing them back into their own cut out empty shapes in the rolled dough again, jigsaw puzzle style.
However, we decided to SING! Squirrel has been singing along with us for a long while, so we went for a sing along star play session.
We had video clips of ‘Sparkle & Shine’ from the movie Nativity!, and a couple of other star themed christmas songs for children i plucked randomly from youtube, but I admit that we returned to Sparkle & Shine over and over, we both love that one!
Less Spikey, More Stampy Holly
We have drawn his attention to holly over the season as we’ve been browsing around the huge amount of Christmas aisles through all the shops, and visiting garden centres with their festive aisles.
He now spots the plant itself when we pass a garden or hedge of it, and points out wreaths on doors through our neighbourhood too, but i was a bit iffy about letting him actually touch some yet, particularly with playdough, where you instinctively want to squish things into it, meaning a good lot of contact with it, so to avoid booboos, we opted for a cookie cutter and these fantastic craft stamps that hubby actually found in a charity shop and grabbed for us!
We loved pressing the stamp into the dough and then tried cutting out the holly areas with the holly cutter, and observing how the impression in the playdough was the same as the image on the stamp.
We matched this activity with youtube tutorials for making your own wreathes at home; he certainly noticed lots of holly and enjoyed spotting other natural objects that he knew the names of- pinecones and robins among them. I hoped he would take note of the circular consistency of all the wreathes and encouraged him to attempt it with his playdough, but that was a no goer.
So there you have it, an alternative angle to take your Christmas play dough days!
This post is part of Unit 3. Winter & Christmas.