Researchers at the Centre for Children’s Research in Philadelphia have performed studies in order to find out which are the best developmental toys for kids between the ages of three and five.

The conclusions that the American researchers have reached, though, have nothing to do with tablets, expensive remote control cars or miniature flying helicopters. It turns out that the most miraculous of all toys is none other than… play dough!

The experiment took place over five years. From 2005 to 2010, a group of scientists, psychologists and play dough artists performed a set of different activities with children with developmental delays. Play dough modelling activities took place daily, for an hour.

The statistical data obtained proved that play dough is a very efficient learning device. About 70% of the 215 children from the group learned not only the alphabet, but how to build entire phrases.

Additionally, about a third of the children developed better speaking skills – they learned to talk better and more. And four of the participants turned out to have artistic skills.

As the experts from the Centre for Children’s Research in Philadelphia put it, play dough modelling allows children to turn their fantasies and thoughts into reality, as a form of play. At the same time, playing with play dough stimulates the activity of certain mechanisms of the central nervous system and helps the development of fine motor skills.

Therefore, playing with play dough offers your child joy and entertainment, while at the same time helping his development.

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What parents and teachers must know:

Play dough modelling is a very important activity for a child, as it helps develop his creativity, his fine motor skills, spatial thinking, and the concepts of colour and shape. Moreover, modelling (not necessarily play dough), has beneficial effects over children’s nervous systems in general.

How to pick the best play dough

Kids’ play dough must be of top quality. It should be neither too hard, nor too soft and elastic. It’s difficult to play with play dough that sticks to your hands. And if it’s too hard, it’s complicated for them to shape it and parts of their models can come apart.

Never let your children play with fruit flavoured play dough!If yellow play dough smells like lemons, orange one smells like oranges and red one smells like strawberry, then your child won’t model it, he will be tempted to taste it.

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How to start modelling with play dough

During modelling activities, you should be at your child’s side, not just as a supervisor (to stop him from eating the play dough), but as a creator as well (to help him model it).

You shouldn’t exaggerate the tasks you’re giving your child, and you shouldn’t ask too much of him. At the age of 1,5-2 years old, kids are barely starting to get used to what play dough means, they are still exploring it and are getting more skilled at modelling. At these stage, he will only be able to model rings and serpents.

Do your children like play dough modelling?