The Therapeutic Properties of Playdough

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by Paula Anderson

You may not know this, but there are many therapeutic properties of play-dough.

We all know on some level the importance of play-dough—if you didn’t grow up with the plastic smelling dough in the yellow tub, then surely you had your own version in your mother’s bread dough or a more rustic version of mudpies in the backyard.

Many are aware of its fabulous benefits for children; It’s the great distracter, “Hey your friend has the toy you want….have you seen the play-dough?” It’s a comforting sensory experience, “Feel how soft and squishy this is” and on a muscular level, those little hands sinking into that colored dough, kneading and rolling and squishing the dough through their fingers is extraordinary for children’s fine motor and often gross motor muscles.

BUT I’m not sure if you were entirely aware of the therapeutic properties play dough has for ADULTS. Yes, the muscular value of working that play dough through your fingers has its advantages, but if you have ever been to a toddler group or preschool, you may recognize the benefits on a deeper level. Next time you visit such a place, take a look around and surely you will find a small group of adults gathered around the play dough table (in the name of child-parent bonding) kneading, pounding, rolling play dough balls as they share their lives. As if magnetized to the “play-dough table” in some semi-comatose-sleep deprived trance, they find their way to a seat and grab a handful of dough, and begin the work. As hands knead and pound their dough mound, something begins to happen. Perhaps it’s the in-between state of childhood memories and Recess monkeys echoing in the background that draws them into this therapeutic atmosphere of conversation. In the end, they leave the “play-dough table” a little lighter, feeling heard and maybe even resolved on some level…because, dare I say, of the therapeutic properties of playdough.

It’s lovely really, the beauty of something so simple, meeting the needs of both parents and children. If you think I’m joking, try it at your next board meeting, marriage counseling or family reunion, and see if it doesn’t improve life a whole heck of a lot.

Here is our tried and true playdough recipe:
Double! Triple! Add color and extracts! Add spices..enjoy

1 cup flour (for those gluten free folks, I have also used rice flour, which works amazingly well and smells fantastic!)

1/2 cup Salt (yes, that’s a half a cup)

2 Tbs. Cream of Tartar (preserves the play-dough)

2 Tbs. oil

1 cup of water (add color now too if you like)

Cook over medium heat until it just loses its sticky look. Dump onto clean surface and let cool, then knead. Cool and store in air sealed container up to 3 weeks.

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