Play dough is a staple in our home all year round. It holds my three-year-old's attention far longer than any toy. As with many of our activities, I rotate the items on our play dough tray regularly.
Perhaps every two weeks I will update the play dough tray but sometimes it happens naturally when the play dough is left out or my child finds his own materials to add to the tray. Play dough has to be the most affordable, effective, and engaging learning material for young children. Using what you have at home it's also super easy to add variety or add new tools.
On our play dough tray we usually have:
- scissors or a children's knife or cutter - pictured above is the Foost Knife (AU only)
- rolling pin
- items from nature - like seedpods, leaves
- cookie cutters
- child-friendly container - the OXO Pop Storage Containers are airtight and can be used independently by children from around 12 months+.
When I update the tray I will add different cookie cutters, sometimes change the knife/cutter, and will often add new play dough with different scents and colours. Often we have play dough add-ins like dried flowers or bio-glitter. You can see our list of favourite play dough tools here.
At special times like Easter or Christmas, we often make themed play dough trays. Above is our current Christmas themed play dough tray. My advice for play dough trays is to keep it open-ended and age-appropriate. If you are not sure you can observe your child using the tray and see what works and what doesn't. If your child isn't into play dough play but you want to encourage it, I suggest playing with the play dough alongside your child and demonstrate some technique depending on the child's age like stamping, rolling a snake, rolling a ball. It's also useful for children to use play dough around friends or siblings, they can learn a lot from observing each other.
Below are a few more Christmas play dough ideas, from Montessori and like-minded families.
I like this tray as it's not too much. I've seen similar trays that are overflowing with too many options, with too much for the children to use. Often when too many materials are out the child will dump the materials which makes it difficult to clean up and the child's focus isn't on the play dough.
There are lots of good ideas here (click through). I love how they have set it all out on the large board.
This tray reminds me that dough play is good for developing fine motor skills.
A snowman play dough tray with recipe.
These may be cloves on a play dough tree.
More play dough trees to decorate.
Simple stampers on a tray. This is for a 17-month old.
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