Whether you call it play dough, therapy putty, modelling clay or play clay it is a whole lot of fun to play with, and pretty easy (not to mention cheaper) to make at home. We have spent the last few months experimenting in the kitchen with different recipes and I thought it might be a good idea to share the results.
Play dough is a really versatile occupational therapy tool at Casa Sprung. Because of the malleable nature of the clay it is an excellent tool for stretching the tendons and strengthening all of the muscles in the hands, helping prepare them for better fine motor skills. Fine motor activities include anything that requires the strength, coordination and precise movements of the hand muscles- so think hand writing, using scissors (or utensils, tools of any type really), zippers, tying shoes, manipulating small objects (think Lego- I'll post next week about that)- things that require precise motor movement to complete and often delicate task. Both of my boys have difficulty with fine motor skills, but for slightly different reasons. Did you notice the super bend-y fingers in the photo above? They bend both ways- forward AND backwards. The oldest has "hypermobile joints" which means that his joints bend much farther than normal. Unfortunately, this can cause a lot of additional stress on the joints. Fatigue is common (other muscles have to work very hard to compensate for the joint instability) and it's difficult to complete tasks because of it.
At Christmas we bought the Littles some scented play dough thinking that it may be a fun way to focus a bit on fine motor tasks. It turned out to be the favourite gift- they ALL played with it for hours, big brother included. The only trouble was that Daisy wanted everything to dry so she could keep it- and I quickly realised that it was going to be expensive to keep them in play dough. I also noted that unless I bought the really expensive therapeutic putty I couldn't really purchase different dough consistencies. Therapy putties typically come in varying degrees of soft, from extra soft to firm. NOT cheap. So we "kitchen hacked" a number of popular recipes to see what we could come up with.
Here is what we found!
Cornstarch Dough (cooked)
was very soft and light. We liked it, but it tended to make our hands feel a little dried out. The recipe we used can be found here.
Flour Dough (uncooked method) was a little firmer in consistency. It doesn't exactly feel like commercial dough but it's fairly close. It did leave a really weird film on our hands but even my sensory boy kept on trucking. You can find the recipe we used here.
Probably my favourite dough was Jello based. Yes, this added to the cost but not only was it a pretty colour it smelled like grapes and my hands felt GREAT afterwards. You can find the recipe we used here. Note- I used coconut oil in the recipe and I think that is what I will be adding to play dough from now on. Consistency was very similar to regular store bought dough.
To increase the resistance of any of the doughs (or to help sensory avoiding kiddo's) you can place the dough inside a heavy-duty-plastic-zipper-top-freezer-bag (I'm pretty sure that is breaking every single grammar rule on the planet but I don't want to name drop) and have them squish the heck out of it.
There really are a ton of benefits to play dough- not just Occupational Therapy! This is why it is a staple of early childhood classroom tools. Ignore anyone that suggests play dough is for preschool- I had the time of my life hanging out with the monsters and rolling dough, and I can't wait until we do it again!
The artist in me is screaming THINK OF THE CREATIVITY!