I made a new batch of playdough (without all the bells and whistles) last week for the toddler art group. I was aiming for lavender, but didn't get it right. I need to fine tune my playdough coloring technique…
Each kiddo got a big blob of playdough to poke, pound, and prod. They mostly did this with a variety of kitchen tools (potato masher, wire whisk, rolling pin, cookie cutters) and playdough tools (textured rollers and "pokers"). They had fun! But in retrospect, I think the tools got in the way of the experience. That I should have just put the playdough out there on its own for what was for most of them a first playdough encounter.
Instead of really exploring the playdough, they were enchanted by and distracted by the tools.
And the tools added an extra layer of distance between them and the playdough. I'd rather see them squishing it in their hands, poking their fingers into it, picking it up, tasting it, etc.
And they did do some of that! But not as much as I would have liked. I think next time I bring out the playdough with this group, I'll present it on its own and see what happens.
That's not to say I don't like playdough tools. I obviously do. But I think I should have let the toddlers become familiar with playdough on its own first a few times before introducing the concept of manipulating it with tools. What do you think?
I left the playdough and tools out and they were used by Daphne, Maia, and her friends many times over the next few days.
Mostly becoming part of their elaborate pretend play. It's such fun to see how the age difference (4 years) between my daughters plays out as they each interact with art materials in their own ways!
Now that I think about it, though, Maia usually interacts with playdough without tools. She uses her hands to roll and shape it into airplanes (above), people, and cakes. While she used to use tools a lot with playdough, she doesn't nearly as much anymore.
I'm wondering if tools help provide a layer of perceived safety between the toddler and the new material? (Some of the kids were decidely tentative about approaching the playdough) And that they aren't used as much once familiarity is reached? Or not used as much once the child has the dexterity and skill to shape realistic items from the playdough? I'm just thinking aloud here… The familiarity thing can't be true because kids use tools with playdough long after they are familiar with it. I guess tools are just plain fun to use! And provide novel ways to manipulate and interact with the playdough (garlic press! nature prints!).
What are your thoughts on all this? Do your kids prefer to play with playdough alone or with tools?