One of the best things about kindergarten is that our students are able to learn through play. (Isn’t everything more fun when you feel like you are “playing” rather than “working”?!) An almost-universally loved tool for learning through play is playdough. There are so many ways that you can encourage Learning with Playdough in the kindergarten classroom. In this post, I’m sharing some of my favorites.
The Benefits of Learning with Playdough
Using playdough in the classroom can seem like a mess waiting to happen! However, with a little bit of instruction and planning, playdough activities can be very beneficial for your students.
Playdough Sparks Creativity
Playdough allows students to exercise their creativity. 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 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 young learners work the hand muscles that they need to develop for proper pincer grasp and coordination. When their fine motor muscles become stronger, it is easier for them to write and color.
Playdough Provides Sensory Input
Playdough is also very tactile and allows your students to practice working with different textures. It can also be a great option for your students who seek sensory input during the school day.
Helpful Tips for Learning with Playdough
If you’re still on the fence about pulling out the playdough in your classroom, here are a few tips to help things go more smoothly.
1. Select Your Playdough
First, choose playdough that doesn’t crumble or dry out easily. 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. Also keep in mind that some of your students might be sensitive to wheat, which is an ingredient in some brands of ready-made playdough.
If you would like to make your own playdough, these are my favorite homemade recipes!
2. Teach Playdough Procedures
The most important thing to do before you dive into learning with playdough is to teach students how to be responsible with this classroom tool. Some things that you can discuss with your students include:
- Putting the lid back on tightly
- Keeping colors separated
- Washing hands before and after play (if sharing playdough)
- Using tools appropriately
- Not eating playdough
- How to shape playdough to use with learning mats
3. Use Playdough Mats
Playdough mats are a great way to incorporate playdough in your classroom. You can have your students use playdough mats during whole group lessons, small group centers, leveled groups, free time, or in morning tubs. Plus, they are super easy to prep and set up. This is music to any teacher’s ears! 🙂 Just print, laminate, cut, and 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 tray 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 tray and find a spot to work. The tote and playdough mats create visual boundaries to keep the playdough where it belongs.
7 Fun Ways to Learn with Playdough
Here are some of my favorite ways to encourage learning with playdough in the kindergarten classroom:
1. Alphabet Practice
Alphabet playdough mats are an engaging way for students to work on letter recognition and letter formation for both uppercase and lowercase letters. These mats include pictures of words that start with the letter to encourage letter/sound recognition.
2. Word Building
As students develop their phonics skills, they can apply that knowledge to word-building activities! Use playdough mats to help students build words that correspond to phonics practice in your classroom. Have your students focus on one specific skill at a time, or mix them up for extra practice.
3. Sight Word Practice
This hands-on literacy activity will help students with 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. For an extra challenge, they could also write a sentence using the word.
4. STEM Activities
Building and experimenting with playdough is a great way for students to practice problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Check out this fall STEM activity that has students try to build the tallest tower they can by using playdough and apples.
5. Number Sense Practice
Number playdough mats can help students practice a variety of number sense skills! They can practice number formation, counting, and modeling numbers on a ten frame. After students roll out small pieces of playdough for the ten frames, they can get even more counting practice by squashing each ball as they count them again. Any time we can make repetition more fun is a bonus!
6. Open-Ended Play
There are many skills that your students can practice by using playdough in an open-ended way. You could have playdough as a soft-start option during morning work time or as an activity for early finishers. It’s always fun to see how students work together to bring their creations to life, which helps them practice teamwork and cooperation! Even if they use playdough independently, students can practice communication skills as they describe what they are building to their tablemates.
7. Shape Practice
Finally, 2D shape playdough mats are a hands-on way to help students better understand shape attributes. This a great option for math centers!
Printable Playdough Mats for Kindergarten
I have put together the playdough mats mentioned in this post into one easy-to-download Playdough Mats Bundle. These playdough mats are perfect for preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students to use for hands-on learning throughout the day. Just click below to take a closer look at everything included in this bundle of printable playdough mats.
Save These Ideas for Learning with Playdough
Be sure to save this post if you’d like to come back to it later! Just add the pin below to your favorite teaching board on Pinterest. You’ll be able to find these tips and resources when you’re looking for ways to incorporate playdough into your lesson plans.