Encouraging kids to talk with play dough

by Megan Guthrie

Here are a few simple ways to promote language during play with playdough:

  1. Sing songs to mimic your actions
    1. Start with making a simple ball. While you are modeling how to roll out the playdough, sing a song to mimic your actions (e.g. “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.)
  2. Work on requesting
    1. You can make a ball and begin playing with it. If your child is interested and wants to have a ball of his/ her own, have them request it! For children at the 1- word level, model “ball”. For those at the 2- word level, model “more ball” or “make ball”. Model 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 have still just made your playdough fun and rich in language.
  3. Provide choices
    1. Give your child a choice between different toys (e.g. cookie cutters, rolling pin, plastic knife, play animals) to use during play.
  4. Improve vocabulary
    1. Make pretend items and name them (e.g. pretend foods, shapes, animals, letters, etc.)
  5. Work on following directions
    1. Make a ball. Put it under the table. Roll a ball and then squish it. Show your child how to complete the actions if he/ she needs help!

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