Play-Doh: better than TV

Last Christmas, the Munchkin was given a set of Play-Doh and the “Meal-Making Kitchen” that goes along with large quantities of the stuff. I put them away at the time, because even though the Play-Doh says ages 2 and up (the kitchen toy says 3 and up), I just knew that she wasn’t ready to play with it yet.

Enter yesterday, when the Seattle area was rained on with a high temperature of 64 degrees. We can’t set the kids loose outdoors after their naps, which we’ve gotten used to doing over the summer. This is bad. Mommy desperately tries to think of a plan. A lightbulb goes on. Play-Doh!

Seeing as the Munchkin is finally old enough to start Sunday School in a couple of weeks, it is high time that she was introduced to Play-Doh, the preschool teacher’s backup lesson plan. It is a well-known fact that many a two-year-olds teacher’s sanity was saved by bringing out the Play-Doh. Of course, the Play-Doh at church is used, mixed with many colors, and sometimes the lids don’t get put on properly and the whole multi-colored lump dries out and has to be tossed. But that was not the case at our house yesterday! I sat the Munchkin down in the highchair (away from Tad’s reach, and it also gave her a clean, cleared surface to work on, plus being in the highchair means that she’s not running around the house with it), put her Big Bird apron on her, and pulled out a container of dark pink Play-Doh. I shook it out of the can and it hit the highchair tray with a satisfyingly moist thud. The Munchkin stared at it, uncertain of what to do next.

I handed her a plastic rolling pin, a plastic pizza cutter (both toys from my childhood) and some metal cookie cutters from IKEA that she got for Christmas from Friend and Doc in a child’s play baking set. I showed her that the Play-Doh was malleable. It was squishy. She could cut it, roll it out, mash it up and do it all over again. She was told not to eat it, but one whiff of the salty stuff probably convinced her more than Mommy’s warnings could. She was told not to get it on the floor, and she was so busy playing that it never even occured to her to drop any of her fun new stuff where she couldn’t get it.

She played with the one can of Play-Doh and the various toys for over an hour and a half. She was so engaged and active and pleased with what she was doing that time just flew by.

I love Play-Doh. A toy which encourages creativity, imagination, and yet allows a child to get messy in a good, clean, non-toxic way. I have never fully appreciated its value until now. Now, it will be my wonder-toy, the ultimate distraction, the substitute for TV.

And since she was fully out of Tad’s reach, he could play by himself, unmolested by his sister, which he can do pretty well so long as he has a parent in sight.

I finally had dinner nearly ready, and started giving the Munchkin warnings that it was getting close to dinner time and that we would have to clean up. I am so proud of myself that I remembered to do that! I first told her that she would have to clean up in 10 minutes for dinner. Then I gave her a 5 minute warning. Then a two-minute warning, and I set the timer. I told her at 1 minute that when she heard the timer beep, it was time to clean up.

She protested each time that we gave her the time warnings that I was afraid of what would happen when it finally was time to clean up. But when she heard that beep, she annouced, “Okay, Mommy, I all done!” I think my jaw hit the floor. We sang the Clean-Up song as she put chunks of Play-Doh back in the can and I rolled a small piece around the tray to clean up all the little flecks and bits. The Webmaster washed her up, I put everything away, cleaned off the tray with a Clorox wipe, and then got Tad in the highchair for dinner. When the Munchkin reappeared, clean and happy and having just used the potty, her dinner was waiting for her.

I was so thrilled with the whole thing. She does love to color, but she gets frustrated so easily because she “runs out of paper” – meaning that she scribbles and then needs more fresh paper because the scribbling has “ruined” the paper. When she was playing with the Play-Doh, there was none of that. She did want my help in using the rolling pin, but I think that will come to an end quickly. It was a renewable resource, and if she didn’t like something, she just squished it up and tried again. When a two-and-a-half year old can spend ninety solid minutes doing something other than watching TV, it’s a keeper.

My little girl is growing up and discovering new things, and I couldn’t be happier for her.

3 Responses to “Play-Doh: better than TV”

  1. DozeyMagz
    August 30th, 2006 07:30

    Great discovery! Don’t make the mistake I did a few weeks ago when I gave them some to play with only I hadn’t realised it was all dried up and crumbly – took me a very long time to clean it all up and I don’t think they got max enjoyment of the experience (thanks for reminding me I have to buy some fresh Play-doh!) I think the stuff we get over here is a bit different, because here we have generations growing up longing for a snack that tastes as good as Play-doh smells!!!! Or is that just me????!

  2. MormonDaddy
    August 30th, 2006 12:35

    Play-doh is great! I still like to play with it and I’m 25!

  3. Little Cousin's Mommy
    August 30th, 2006 20:52

    Don’t underestimate Munchkin’s curiosity about the allure of tasting Play-Doh. Every kid does it at some point.