I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how my girls get tired and frustrated at certain times of day, especially the dreaded “witching hours” between about 4- 6pm. Is this a familiar time of day for you?
You already know how much we love play dough and all of its amazing benefits for young children. Using it as a stress reliever is one of those benefits as they can squeeze and squash it to their heart’s delight, releasing tension and focusing their attention when needed. So I thought, how about adding some aromatherapy into the equation to really help focus, calm and revive them while they play?
I did a little amateur research and found that lavender oil and cedar wood oil both have calming, relaxing properties and that lemon oil works to revive and refresh the mind. Just what my little people need when feeling tired and fed up! I managed to source these essential oils really easily on ebay and they can also be found in all high street health food stores.
The girls helped me to make the dough using our simple 4 minute, no-cook recipe and we split it into 3 parts. To those we added just a few drops of each oil, making sure to keep them separate so that the scents didn’t mix. They loved smelling each one and tried to think of ways to describe what it was like. It was interesting to try and get Cakie to compare them and say which she preferred, and she found it quite hard to do.
Next we found a variety of dry, non-scented, tactile ingredients to add another sensory dimension to the play. We mixed rough rock salt to one batch of dough, smooth and soft split peas to another and spiky rice to the third, talking about how they felt and looked as we did so.
When the dough was cut open it was lovely to see the new textures inside and it provided new opportunities for discussion and comparison.
Ideas of additions to create texture:
After playing, we stored these in 3 separate air-tight containers in the cupboard and will be pulling them out everyday for calming down sessions!
[Sidenote:] Only use a few drops of these oils as they are concentrated. Excessive consumption could be harmful, so don’t use these if your child still enjoys eating play dough (there are some children who do!) As with all things, do your own research and use your own wisdom.
Questions to ask as they play: how does it feel? can you describe what it’s like? what does it smell like? how does the smell make you feel? which is your favourite and why?
- physical development: fine motor skills (pushing, squeezing, rolling, flattening with dough), muscle strengthening through kneading and mixing
- phse: discussing how something smells and feels, how it makes you feel, making comparisons, identifying feelings and emotions, talking about being calm and relaxed, expressing frustrations etc
- knowledge & understanding of the world: discussing and comparing textures and scents using appropriate descriptive language, combining materials
- literacy: descriptive language e.g. bumpy, lumpy, spiky, rough, smooth, soft, shiny etc
Cakie: 3 years 8 months
Pop: 2 years 1 month
Bean: 10 weeks