Maybe it’s because I never played with play dough as a child or because I’m a neat freak, but I never wanted play dough in the house. The thought of it trodden into the rug made me cringe. That is, until we did the play dough numbers activity! All you need is play dough, a few simple items and our free play dough numbers printable
Play Dough Numbers – Number Recognition and Counting Activity
We love visiting grandma and grandpa often, especially since they live so close to us. It’s always more fun at grandma’s house, right? She always has the best toys. Well, just recently Grandma introduced my daughter to GLITTER Play-Doh. Just my luck, my daughter absolutely loved it! Play dough quickly became her favorite new toy at grandma’s house.
Love it or hate it, I could no longer deny the fact that play dough offers so many wonderful learning opportunities. So, my daughter’s newfound interest in play dough was a great opportunity to work on number recognition and counting through the manipulation of play dough. There’s also a free printable to go along with this play dough number activity.
What you’ll need for the play dough numbers activity:
- Play dough (Find my AMAZING no-cook recipe right here)
- Small items such as dry beans, seeds, pony beads, pebbles, etc.
- Number mats – download our free play dough numbers printable
- Number cookie cutters or stampers (optional)
Let’s Get Started!
I set out three different colors of play dough and three different kinds of small items (dried black beans, pony beads, and popcorn kernels) to press into the play dough numbers. I’ve always been a fan of giving children options, especially toddlers, as it gives them a sense of control.
My daughter started by rolling the play dough between the palms of her hands to create a “sausage-like” shape and then forming the shape using the number mat as a guide. If you don’t think your child is quite ready to shape the dough into numbers, then I’d recommend using number cookie cutters or stampers instead.
Then we worked on 1:1 correspondence, which is the act of counting by touching each object and saying the numeral name aloud. For example, for the number 4 my daughter picked up, counted, and pressed 4 pony beads into the dough. We did this for numbers 1-10. Then I asked questions like “Which play dough number has the most stuff on it?”, “Which play dough number has more, 9 or 3?”
When we were done, I let my daughter play with the play dough numbers. Eventually the numbers didn’t look like numbers anymore, but that was okay. It’s important to give children the freedom to explore, experiment, and play with the play dough. Surprisingly, she loved picking out all of the beans, beads, and popcorn kernels. This could’ve easily turned into a sorting activity afterwards.
What do children learn when making play dough numbers?
In addition to math skills, there are so many great benefits of play dough:
1.) Communication and language skills: talking with your child about what they’ve created is a great way to develop vocabulary – describing the texture or color of the play dough, what the numbers look like (i.e. number 5 looks like a snake), and action words such as roll, squeeze, flatten, and press.
2.) Fine motor skills – Pinching each black bean really helps flex and strengthen those fine motor muscles, the same muscles your child will use to hold a pencil and write with!
3.) Reducing stress and anxiety – the substance itself is very calming to play with; just being able to physically mold and manipulate play dough can help your child feel like they are in control. Even adults can’t resist playing with it!
I think play dough will now become a consistent part of my 3-year-old’s rotation of playtime activities. Have you made play dough numbers with your play dough yet?
Nataly is a certified elementary teacher turned stay-at-home-mom to two little girls. She enjoys sharing simple yet fun kids activities to help make playtime meaningful!
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