Play doh is one of the most versatile toys I've found! While playing with Play Doh I can target many skills without children even realizing it! Here is the list:
1. Requesting: Even before we start playing I can already target this goal. When I take out the play doh and the child tries to reach it, I ask the child to request for it. I use the words "give me" and if necessary, I also use a gesture. To do so, I take the child's hand and with an open hand I make them touch their chest two times (once per word) as I say "Give me." Right after I give them the play doh, I wait for them to try to open it (the little ones have a hard time doing so). After a couple of seconds the child usually hands me back the play doh. That's when I take advantage of the opportunity to target requesting again, this time using the word "open." I say something like "What do you want me to do? Open it? Say open!"
2. Word/Sound Imitation: At the same time I target requesting I work on early developing sounds by giving the child visual cues (see the video below) as I say the /m/ and /p/ in "give me" and "open." While playing, I also use words like "push" and "more" to keep targeting these sounds. For example, as the child is squeezing the play doh, I often go "p, p, p, push!" (paired with the visual cue as seen on the video), and then I ask him to repeat the sound and word.
Here you can see the visual cues I use for /b/, /m/ and /p/. You can use this Learning with Yaya video to reinforce production of these sounds.
3. Label Colors, Animals and Shapes: With sets like the ones below I can target tons of basic vocabulary. I can work on animals, colors and shapes by holding two items and asking the child something like "Do you want the duck or the horse?" or by saying something like "Here I have green and purple play doh. Which one do you want?"
4. Identify/Use Descriptive Concepts: While playing with the sets above I also target concepts like long, big, small, same, etc. For example, usually after the child prepared the play do to use the crocodile or the giraffe, the animals won't fit in it. So I help the child extend the play doh even more, as I say something like "The crocodile won't fit in here! The crocodile is too long! We have to make this (play doh) longer!" You can also make big and small shapes, and talk about them. Or talk about the colors of the objects, and point out which ones are the same color and which ones are different.
Here is a Learning with Yaya song to practice colors!
5. Pretend Play: I've had this set since 2011, and I've been using it since! All the kids love it! With it we pretend to prepare a meal and eat it (please pay close attention to the child and make sure he doesn't actually eat the play doh!). If you incorporate stuffed animals you can pretend to feed them as well. At the same time I work on pretend play I target the following goals:
6. Label Actions and Descriptive Concepts: With this set I can describe actions like cut, eat, drink, cook, blow, roll, clean. I can also work on concepts such as hot, cold, hard, soft, open, closed. While playing I say things like "My chicken is ready! I'm going to eat it now! Oh, but it is too hot! I need to blow!" Or as the child is using the knife I ask him "What are you doing?" If the child needs modeling I say "You are cutting. Cut, cut, cut."
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Yael Herszkopf Mayer MS, CCC-SLP is a pediatric, bilingual (English/Spanish) Speech and Language Pathologist and the creator of Learning with Yaya. She received her Masters of Science degree in Speech and Language Pathology- Bilingual Extension from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Clinical Psychology from Universidad de Iberoamérica in Costa Rica.