For my younger clients, I love using homemade playdough in therapy. Many people are hesitant to give the little ones playdough because they’re still exploring new items with their mouths. I agree, we don’t want anyone ingesting playdough! However, my philosophy is to make homemade playdough rather than giving the child store bought PlayDoh because the ingredients are all natural and the dough has a high salt content. Even if our little friends try a taste of the playdoh, they probably won’t try again! After about 18 months and with strict supervision, the playdough acts as a great language facilitator. Give it a try :)
Recipe for Homemade Playdough:
-2 cups flour
-2 cups warm water
-1 cup salt
-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
-1 tablespoon cream of tartar
Mix all the ingredients (except food coloring) together over low heat while stirring. After 3-5 minutes, the dough will pull away from the sides of the saucepan and form a clump. I usually leave the already formed clump on low heat for 2-3 minutes and then remove from the pot and cool. Once cooled, cut the clump of playdough into even pieces. Each piece needs about 5-6 drops of food coloring. I recommend putting on gloves before adding the food coloring! Fold in the food coloring and form a ball. Store the playdough in a Ziploc bag or a plastic container.
How to make playdough a language facilitator? Usually the child will make this part easy for you! The playdough is such a new, fun sensory activity for the child. It allows for a lot of control and a new way of being creative. It can morph into all sorts of fun things. First, make sure the child is in a chair at a table or a high chair. This allows you to have control over where the playdough ends up. Start with making a simple ball. While you’re modeling how to roll out the playdough, sing a song to mimic your actions. I love the simple rhyme, “This is the way we roll the dough, roll the dough, this is the way we roll the dough all day long.” Once you have made the ball, label “ball” for the child and let them play with it. You can model actions and accompany them with words (e.g., squish, bounce, pull, etc). Once the dough is manipulated, the child will likely want it back to the ball form. This is a great time to work on requesting. For children at the 1-word level, model “ball.” For those at the 2-word level, model “more ball” or “make ball.” In all requesting attempts, I recommend modeling the target word or phrase 3 times for the child and encourage imitation with the phrase, “You say ____.” Hopefully, the child will repeat your model by the third attempt but even if they have not, you’ve still just made your playdough fun language rich. Keep modeling words, actions and always encourage the child to request! Even if they’re only saying, “ball, ” “more” or “all done,” you’ve made this simple activity a language-rich one. The child is initiating, focused and engaged. Have fun!