One of the best things about kindergarten is getting to learn through play. Isn’t everything more fun when you feel like you are “playing” rather than “working”?! And because almost everyone, (adults too!) loves to play with playdough, using playdough mats in your classroom can be a really engaging tool. Incorporating playdough into your learning centers is beneficial to your students because it keeps them engaged, it helps them practice forming letters, numbers, or even shapes, and it strengthens their fine motor muscles. As you can see, playdough mats are a win-win in the classroom!
Play Dough Sparks Creativity
Playdough allows students to get really creative when they are building. Did you know using playdough during center time allows your students to use their imagination and engineering skills as they form the dough into different creations? Even if you can’t see it, their little brains are working, problem-solving, and thinking critically as they design.
Playdough Helps Build Fine Motor Skills
All of the rolling, twisting, patting, and forming helps your little learners work those little muscles that they need to develop for proper grip strength and coordination. When their fine motor muscles become stronger, it is easier for them to write and color as well. Playdough is also very tactile and teaches your students to practice working with different textures.
So now that you see why playdough is so beneficial, let’s talk about how to incorporate it in your classroom!
What Kind of Playdough Should You Use?
If you’re short on time, or would rather not make your own playdough, store-bought playdough works great. Each student can have their own container labeled with their name which helps to keep germs from spreading while also teaching your students to be responsible for their own tools.
If you would like to make your own playdough, these are my favorite homemade recipes!
Using Playdough with Playdough Mats
Playdough mats are a great way to incorporate playdough in your classroom. Plus, they are super easy to prep and set up. This is music to any teacher’s ears! 🙂 Just print, laminate, and cut them and you’re ready to go! You can also save on paper and laminating by making the mats smaller and printing two to a page.
You can store the mats in a colorful tote or basket along with the playdough and a dry-erase marker and you’ll be set! Now, all the kiddos have to do is grab the tote or basket and find a spot to work.
They can use the dry-erase marker for extra practice. Some markers come with an eraser on the cap (which I love), but if you don’t have those, just keep a couple of erasers or socks in the tote for easy cleanup.
Using Playdough Mats Correctly
You can have your students use playdough mats during whole group lessons, small group centers, leveled groups, free time, or in morning tubs. Before you turn your students loose with the playdough, it is important to teach them how to use it correctly.
Start by showing them the totes with supplies and go over procedures. Next, model how to roll the dough out like a snake and form it into different letters, numbers, and shapes. It is also a good idea to show them how to problem-solve if they run out of play dough. Then, explain how they will use the dry-erase marker to write the letter, number, word, or shape underneath. Finally, show them how to properly erase the mats, put away the playdough, snap the lid so the dough doesn’t dry out, and return the tote to its home.
I have one last pro-teacher tip for you. Talk to them IN DEPTH about how important it is to keep their playdough colors separate and make sure they get the lid clicked shut. Nobody wants mixed colors or dried-out play dough!
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are five ways to use playdough mats in your classroom:
Work on letter recognition and letter formation with uppercase and lowercase alphabet mats. I also like to include clipart or photos of words that start with the letter to encourage letter/sound recognition.
Sight Word Mats
This hands-on literacy activity will help students with their sight word recognition. They can form each letter and practice spelling out each word. Your students can also practice writing the sight words on their mat and as an extra challenge, they can write a sentence using the word too.
CVC Word Mats
Have your students focus on one specific short vowel at a time, or mix them up for extra practice. They can work on their fine motor and spatial awareness skills as they have 3 letters to form out of their playdough. Just like the sight word mats, they can practice writing the word or sentence on the line.
Work on numbers 1-20 with the number mats. They can work on number formation as well as showing the number in a ten frame using play dough as counters. The number word is also included so they can work on number word recognition as they’re practicing the numbers.
Your students can use playdough to form the shapes, which will also help them learn the attributes of each shape. They can build the shape word with playdough, trace it with their fingers, or use a dry-erase marker. You can download these shape playdough mats for free HERE!
Bundle and Save!
All of these playdough mats are available in my Playdough Mats Bundle! These are perfect for Pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade students to use both in the classroom or at home.