Welcome to the start of a nano series on incidental learning – learning as they go. I’m calling it a nano series as it should take you no more than a few minutes to read, but my hope is that you will be able to take away an idea or two to use in play straight away. Playdough is one of my favourite things for incidental learning and it can be a lovely, relaxed, social time together with your little ones. I’d set up a little invitation with playdough around The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle for my little one, Floss.
Buttons and lolly sticks are good loose parts to use with playdough. Through play, they can be used to discover and understand early number and mathematical concepts. Floss has begun to have an interest in numbers and enjoyed counting buttons in and out of the jars with me – she joins in with 2, 4 and 6! She picked up two buttons or sticks at a time and said two as she added them to the butterfly. Butterflies are also excellent for the mathematical concepts of doubling and symmetry.
Acquiring language is very important to Floss currently. As she played with the dough I used words such as press, push, squeeze, squash and roll to describe what she was doing and she began to join in with the terminology. It’s a great way to introduce new vocabulary in a contextual way. Big and small are relatively new concept for her and she spent some time putting what she knows into problem solving which ball of dough should go into a big spoon and which for the small spoon. All that from a bit of playdough and buttons!