Developing your child's fine motor skills is important; it allows them to better explore their world, and of course, to make more intricate messes for you to clean up. But, finding age-appropriate and safe ways to channel their exploration can be a challenge. Thankfully, play-dough is an excellent tool, especially if you use a home-made recipe with entirely edible ingredients, because, let's face it, toddlers also like to explore with their mouths. Below are our five favorite ways to play with play-dough and develop fine motor skills at the same time.
Odds and Ends
It doesn't take much to entertain a toddler. Children can use random objects from around the home to create impressions and sculptures that will stimulate their imaginations, and will develop those fine motor skills. Here are some of our favorites:
- Buttons: Because buttons are various sizes and require the ability to grasp and maneuver, they are an excellent tool for developing fine motor skills. If you do a lot of sewing, you probably have a collection at home, and if not, then you can grab a bag of assorted buttons at any craft store for nearly nothing. Let your kid choose a button and then press it into the play-dough to make an imprint. They can make designs with the buttons, then remove them and stretch the play-dough to see how the imprint changes. Just be care of the button size with little ones so they are not a choking hazard.
- Paper and Toilet Paper Rolls: Instead of throwing these away, collect them in a bin under the sink. Then, when it's time to play, take a few out and let your child build sculptures or buildings with the different sized rolls. If the play-dough gets messy, you can roll it in a ball, stuff it in the roll, and throw it all away for easy clean-up.
- Sippy cups and Straws: If your little one has transitioned to an adult cup, you might be wondering what to do with all those left over sippy cups. Let your child press them into the play dough to make circles, then watch and see what they build with them. They can also make little designs with the straws in their creations.
Learning about Nature
Spring and summer is a great time to take the learning outdoors. These activities will help your kid learn about the wonders of nature, while helping to build fine motor skills at the same time.
- Plant a "garden": This one can be done inside or outside. Take an old (clean) egg carton, and a ball of play-dough. Separate the dough into twelve small circles and press them into the egg carton. Then, let your child put fake, or real, flowers into the play-dough to "plant" their own little garden.
- Leaf Prints: Using a rolling pin, roll out a fistful of play-dough onto a table. Then, let your child press leafs into the dough, which will leave an imprint. The same thing can be done with flowers, or any other safe outdoor object.
Thankfully, toddlers love to explore their world. The above activities should help develop their imagination, and build those fine motor skills at the same time. As a bonus, play-dough is also easy to clean up: just roll in a ball, and put it in a sealed container and it's ready for the next round of play.