Playdough is such a fantastic learning tool. Our 3 and nearly 5-year olds love playing with it. They can be left to play with their playdough while we sit nearby. However, I like to keep an eye on it and get involved as I, too, enjoy the sensorial and creative side of it. More importantly, playdough provides a fantastic opportunity for language learning and cultural awareness.
Getting stuck in
Many children find something they like and make endless versions of it with playdough. To start with, our girls were the same. If left to it, they would end up making endless pizzas. Nothing wrong with that, but it felt like a missed opportunity.
When I got involved, they started expanding their repertoire. They saw me making other items and shapes, using new objects as tools, and they started doing the same. I like to make flowers and jars to put them in, jewelry and foodstuff, lots of foodstuffs!
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How to use playdough for language learning
Last Christmas Amelia was gifted this Playdough kitchen*. She adores it! It comes with utensils and makes a hob frying noise when you lay the pan on it. It also has various accessories and molds, such as steak and egg shapes, and vegetable molds incorporated in the kitchen hob itself.
While they were playing with it, I recreated a Bitoque, a very Portuguese dish (friend beef and egg, rice, chips and salad):
I relished the opportunity to tell my girls about this delicious Portuguese dish I love, and said that we could sample it when we visit Portugal next time. As unfortunately, my Portuguese cooking skills are not great, I would rather prefer going to a Portuguese restaurant where the real deal is serve).
With or without extra tools like the Playdough stove (which you can buy this and other Playdough items by clicking on the image below) gives families an opportunity to play together and to talk about a variety of objects, processes and situations in the minority language. Whatever the child or grown up decide to create, you can discuss it and the opportunities are endless: animals, colours, mixing colours, shapes, size, properties, objects, flowers, household items, clothing, jewellery, common situations, table manners, the list goes on and is only limited by the imagination.
The grown-ups can teach small children the names of the items and ask older children in the minority language for things for the child to create, ask about it and so forth.
If you don’t have much patience to stay with them and get stuck in, you can show them to start with and then ask them to make you things.
Want to explore more on the subjects of Food and Culture? Read this post about the role of food in raising bilingual children
Using playdough for cultural awareness
If you’re not raising bilingual children but you want to raise them with as culturally aware citizens of the world I suggest the following:
- Look at maps and books about other cultures
- try different foods outside the home, or cook them together at home
- make the ingredients and dishes with playdough
- talk about it and role play with what was made – cooking, shopping, having a meal. etc
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