We write a lot about letting kids work in the kitchen, but that doesn’t mean they are very good at it! Just like anyone they need the time and space to practice and not every meal you prepare is suited for their experimental assistance. That is why we are a fan of playdough! Making and using playdough is great practice for many kitchen skills: measuring, mixing, rolling, cutting, and chopping. It is also an easy at-home activity that can keep children entertained for entire afternoons.
Making the Dough
There are many, many recipes for homemade playdough. No matter which one you choose, involve your children in the process of making it. They can help measure the ingredients and mix it all together (with their hands or a spoon!). Let them help clean up, too. Help them prepare a tub or sink of soapy water to wash the bowls, a towel to dry, and a rag to clean their work surface.
Playing with the Dough
You can buy plastic, playdough-specific tools but we think it is just as good (or even better!) to use what you have in the kitchen so children can learn to carefully use real materials under parental supervision. Pull out cutlery, rolling pins, cookie cutters, and spatulas for them to use. If anything has a sharp edge make sure to demonstrate to your child how to hold and use the tool properly. Bonus: as they roll, pinch, squish, and shape their dough they’ll be practising fine motor skills!
Keeping the Dough
When they are finished for the day provide them with plastic bags or airtight plastic or glass containers to keep it in and remind them to wash the tools they used. If possible we recommend keeping the dough and a few tools on a tray on a low shelf or another accessible area. This mimics the Montessori classroom where children can choose their own activities, and it helps them to take responsibility for keeping their materials when they are done.