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Play dough undoubtedly makes the short list of wonder toys. Given the right context and the relaxation of rules, though, it can become even more wonderful. As parents, we'd never imagine we're guilty of "restricting" our child's play dough use. Most of us, however, manage where, how long and even how it’s played with. Have you found yourself encouraging your kid to "keep the colors separate?"
Take the dough outdoors, rebrand it “forest putty,” shroud it with a touch of mystery and invite kids to play freely with it. Suddenly, play dough can take on new textures, colors and scents. It becomes a tool for exploring, sculpting, attaching, building, collecting and pretending. Various nature treasures stick to it and get enveloped in it. And, depending on a child’s age and imagination, it morphs into virtually anything from the mortar that binds a fairy house to marshmallows to roast over a foliage fire.
Kids get the chance to re-discover play dough in a distinctly different context, taking all that is powerful about play dough up a notch. The hunt itself strengthens kids’ curiosity and lends a sense of wonder that inspires both experimentation and imagination. For most kids, playing with play dough outdoors and along with sticks, seed pods, pebbles, bark, and dirt is even more free, messy and creative than the indoor work they typically do with dough. This simple notion of whimsically mashing natural objects with the dough will feel wildly liberating to a kid (and, frankly, to mosts parents too). Who knew you could improve on play dough as they know it?!
Whenever kids do such tactile work, they develop their senses. Kids also develop fine motor control in their hands as they connect objects and squeeze, mold or shape the dough. And, even though tasks like mashing and molding the dough, blending pebbles and dirt into it, or sticking sticks into it appear very simple, they are great examples of universal behavior patterns that experts know develop the human body and brain. Intrigued? Read more about transforming and connecting schema. Finally, we hope you can enjoy knowing that, when that indoor play dough starts to look a little bleak, you can throw it in the backpack and take it outdoors to give it a super fun send-off!