8 Reasons to use Play Dough in Therapy!

As we all know, children love all things Play Dough! Any time the word Play Dough is mentioned, the excitement on their faces and in their voices says it all! Because Play Dough is such a highly preferred activity for the children, we have jumped on board with using it in therapy and find it to be an activity that has so many benefits! Here are 8 reasons why we love using Play Dough in therapy! 

We see an increase in spontaneous language/requesting while playing. As the children are sitting at the table playing with the play dough,  they are able to generate so many different words and phrases. Many different types of requesting can be practiced during Play Dough time whether you are working with a child 1:1 or in a small group.  If the child is working on requesting motivating items that are in sight, you can keep the Play Dough and various different Play Dough toys on the table and let them request. Models or cues can be provided as needed. If they are working on requesting items that are not in sight, you can keep the different colors and toys in box below the table. It is also a great way to work on the children cooperatively playing and requesting a reinforcer that another child might have. 

It is extremely motivating. “Play dough is boring,” said no kid ever. Other than a child who has sensory aversions to certain textures, we have never experienced a child who came into our therapy room and turned down the opportunity to play with play dough. They are able to use their imagination to create various things with the play dough and even use dialogue to pretend play with their peers. 

It naturally elicits vocabulary. Children are able to use so many different types of words while playing with Play Dough, which include nouns (scissors, knife…), pronouns (me, him, she, we…), verbs (cut, smash, roll…), attributes (color, shape, size…), concepts (under, on top, next to…)…and the list goes on! Bottom line is, Play Dough is a naturally vocabulary rich activity. 

Rhythm & Rhyme. The use of rhythm and rhyme in therapy help the children to learn and remember things that they hear. They love interacting with their therapist and peers during hands-on activities where they can sing along or predict what comes next in the rhyme. Memory and melody are frequently paired in our therapy room.  We love making up songs that the children can sing along to or provide a fill in the blanks. It is amazing how much the children can pick up with the use of a little repetitive song. The best part is that no matter how horrible you think your voice is, the children will absolutely love it!                                                                        

It is great for fine motor and bilateral coordination. Play Dough is a great activity that can work on strengthening the little muscles of the hand. Children can put beads or other small objects in the Play Dough and work on pinching their fingers together to get them out. Rolling, smashing, cutting, and squeezing are all different actions that require use of fine motor skills.  When playing with play dough, the children are naturally required to use two hands. Therefore, their hands are each crossing midline at given times to knead, roll, or cut the play dough. Bilateral coordination is essential to making sure that both sides of the child’s body are communicating. This also helps a child develop an awareness of where their body is in relation to space or various things around them.

It is multi sensory. While playing with Play Dough, the children are not only using their sense of touch. They are using almost all of their senses. They use their sense of touch to feel the Play Dough and smell to smell the Play Dough. We have a lot of fun creating dough with scents appropriate for our current theme in therapy.  They use sight to look at the play dough as they play as well as for hand eye coordination as they make various things out of the Play Dough. They use hearing to listen to what is going on around them; to listen to  their therapist and to listen to what the children are saying around them as they play. The one sense we highly discourage the children from using is their sense of taste… nobody wants a taste of germy Play Dough.

Use of SMASH mats. This is such a fun way to work on various skills while playing with play dough. We have created various types of smash mats, which include vocabulary, speech sounds, letters, numbers and counting.   Specific goals can be targeted and work can be done through this kind of play without the child feeling like it’s work.

It is fun! Our goal of therapy should always be to make it fun for the child. A child who is engaged with you and is having fun without knowing they are working on therapy goals will perform much better than a child who is not engaged or is bored with what you are doing. Always, always, always make therapy fun! Play dough is a great way to do this!

This wraps up 8 reasons to use play dough in therapy. However, we would love to give out a freebie that we think you might all love using in therapy! As mentioned as our #7 reason, we love using smash mats. For those of you that aren’t familiar or don’t know where to find one, here is a freebie! All you need to do is print & laminate it and you will be ready to use it in therapy. If you love them, you can also check out the thematic smash mats on our TPT store which we have made to go along with different thematic units! You can grab our freebie here –> Smash Mats FREEBIE!

Go grab some Play Dough and have a great day! 🙂

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