open ended play

  • 4 Benefits of Play Dough

    Hi guys! It’s Chelsea, the Founder of The Dough Project, here to talk about the awesome things that come from playing with dough.

    But first, a little bit about me and my background in early childhood education!

    I started The Dough Project as a preschool teacher in NYC. Year after year, making dough was my go-to classroom hack. It was fun and easy to make. Even better, fun and easy to play with, build with, squeeze, smush and share again and again.

    After witnessing the magic that came from playing and creating in my classroom, I knew I needed to make it easier for families to recreate that experience at home.

    The Dough Project creates a world of kid-powered playing with jars of fresh playdough and DIY Mixes that come packed with everything you need to make your own dough at home. We use only all-natural ingredients and color from plant-based sources.

    So, what’s the deal with dough?

    Used on its own, with clay tools or loose parts, dough supports imagination, conversation and growth across developmental domains. When you watch children play with dough, without any agenda of your own, you’ll be amazed.

    At past dough parties, parents would be in awe watching their kids play. We’ve heard a lot of “wow, he’s so into it” and “I’ve never seen her sit this long” in our day.

    4 Benefits of Play Dough

    Speech and language

    Playing with dough facilitates conversation as children narrate their work, problem solve and tell stories. It’s a great way to introduce new vocabulary. Most importantly, it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to listen. Play quietly, they’ll talk to you.  

    Cognitive skills

    As children play and explore with dough, they begin to understand early quantitative concepts, like “a little” and “a lot.” They also begin to learn about geometric shapes, measurements, and balance.

    Fine motor skills

    All that squishing, mushing and rolling strengthens muscles and develops hand-eye coordination. These skills are critical for early writing and self-care, like getting dressed! 

    Self-regulation

    Similar to the relieving effects that come from squeezing a stress ball, playing with dough is great for little ones to calm themselves down, release energy and express emotions.  The sensory experience is grounding and can be very soothing. It’s the perfect way to unwind and reset. 

    And if you still need more convincing after all that, try out our all-natural, non-toxic dough made with just five ingredients!

    Use code PLT10 for 10% off your first order of dough. Then, watch the littles in awe as they play and create a whole new world with dough.

    About The Dough Project

    The Dough Project is on a mission to get both adults and little ones to think outside the jar. Using only all-natural ingredients (things you can find in your own pantry) and color from plant-based sources (like those beets you used in your salad), The Dough Project is obsessed with creating products that are high quality and safe, so kids can explore and play freely.

    The Dough Project believes playtime should be easy, enriching and well, fun. After witnessing the magic that came from playing and creating in her preschool classroom, Founder and CEO Chelsea Milkman wanted to make it easy for families to recreate that experience at home. The Dough Project creates a world of kid-powered playing with jars of fresh playdough and DIY Mixes that come packed with everything you need to make dough at home. So when you open a jar of dough or a box of the DIY Mix, you’ll instantly get inspired by the feeling of endless possibility.

    About Chelsea Milkman, Founder

    As an early childhood educator and Founder and CEO of The Dough Project, Chelsea Milkman is on a mission to make playtime easy, enriching and well, fun!

    Inspired by the values held at the core of her preschool classroom for 10+ years, Chelsea built The Dough Project on the foundational belief that kid-powered playtime is essential for learning and cultivating creativity—both in the classroom and more importantly, at home.

    Using all-natural and plant-based ingredients, The Dough Project encourages process based play through jars of fresh playdough and DIY Kits complete with all the ingredients you need to make dough at home.

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    Read More

  • What is Open-Ended Play & Why is it Important?

    Open-Ended Play: Its Value and Characteristics

    If you had a dime for every time you told your child to “Go Play!” I bet you’d be in the Bahamas right now on a kid-free vaca, little coconut drink in hand missing your kid…. Because well, that’s just how it goes as a parent. Haha, the guild is real!

    Speaking of guilt, maybe you have felt a tad bad about telling your child to go play 80 times a day, selfish even well, DON’T! By directing your child to “go play” you are promoting what is called open-ended play and by doing so you are actually being proactive by looking out for your child’s best interest. 

    According to world-renowned Swiss scientist and developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, “Play is the work of childhood.”

    Piaget’s life’s work involved studying the cognitive development of children. She believes that children take an active role in the learning process, essentially performing experiments all day long.

    Every child is a little scientist, they interact with the world, making observations as they go about their days.

    Children continually add to their knowledge of the world via these interactions, sometimes building upon existing knowledge or adapting previously held beliefs. Piaget held that, rather than being ‘little adults’, children have inherently different methods of thinking than adults.

    Furthermore, there are both qualitative and quantitative differences in the thought processes of younger versus older children.

    Based on Piaget’s theory of child development, and knowing that children learn EVERYTHING from their environment, what, exactly, should parents put in that environment? What should children play with?

    What is Open-Ended Play? What does it Mean Exactly?

    To understand what open-ended play means for a child let’s look at this from a definition standpoint and break down the phrase itself.

    Open-Ended (adj): unrestricted, without determined, rules, limits, or boundaries.

    Play (noun): engagement in an activity that gives a sense of enjoyment in recreational activities, utilized most by children.

    So.. what is open-ended play? It is play with no direction, play with no limits, rules, or interference, it is letting a child use their imagination free from predefined limits. 

    Does this mean you should let your child go in the kitchen and “play” with the oven… No.

    Open-ended play should be done in a safe space, with access to open-ended toys and indirect adult supervision or interference

    Why is Open-Ended Play Important & Does it Really Add Value?

    Open-Ended play fosters a child’s ability to build resilience, act independently and intentionally all while improving their ability to focus. All of which are valuable life skills your child can learn just from playing!

    When you purchase something like a toy laptop, it can only be a laptop. Children aren’t encouraged to use their imaginations and are confined by the limitations of the toy.

    With open-ended play, you docs on open-ended toys without predefined uses to spark creativity.

    In short…

    Toys Matter A LOT When it Comes To Child Development

    There’s certainly no shortage of toys available to purchase. Go to WalMart or Target, and you’ll be inundated with loud, colorful playthings at every price point.

    “Ooo should we get a doll? Or a drum set? Or this educational light up toy?” Something you need to ask yourself before you purchase a toy is – What will your child learn from that – how will a doll impact your child’s development?

    Now, I am not saying don’t get your child any toys to play with, but It’s time to start focusing on making the best choices we can as parents when it comes to purchasing toys.

    We’ve all been the parent cleaning up after our preschooler’s birthday party. Gathering wrapping paper and packaging, plastic silverware and half-eaten, frosting-heaped cupcakes.

    Surveying the room, now filled with new playthings, we see our wondrous, already-gifted child, playing……..inside a box. THAT – that box – is an open-ended toy. AND that is what your child wants to play with and is the gateway to open-ended play.

    The Benefits of Open-Ended Toys 

    How on earth, you wonder, could a cardboard box, whether open-ended or not, have more inherent play value than a scientifically-researched, state-of-the-art, $50 toy? WHY is my kid more attracted to that BOX than he is to this top-ten-parent-recommended plaything?

    Great question. The answer is perhaps less complicated than that cardboard box. One word: options.

    Open-ended toys have limitless options, while that $50 electronic keyboard has exactly one function – to play music. Valuable? Of course! What fun it is to play music! A keyboard will produce hours of melodic (read:noisy) fun…until it doesn’t.

    Either it breaks, the batteries wear out, or the child gets just plain tired of it. Or someone (not you – of course, not you) hides it.

    But the box? You will have to wrestle that box out of your kid’s hands.

    As in, literally have to throw it out when your child is out of the house.

    You may even resort to taking that box to your mother-in-law’s on trash day so that your kid doesn’t ‘rescue’ the box and bring it back into the house.

    This box has more value to a child as a plaything than anything else that they received Why? It boggles many parents’ minds why their child would rather play with such mundane objects…. But somewhere our brains know what is best for us and a child has yet to learn how to ignore that premonition.

    So, what exactly, is your child learning, developmentally, while playing with a box?

    Open-Ended Play Helps Develop Fine Motor Skills

    Ripping off the remaining wrapping paper and tape is great exercise for small fingers and hands. Perhaps your child will decorate the box using crayons or markers – maybe even paint. All of these activities strengthen those muscles that enable a child to hold a pencil, tie shoes, grasp a crayon, move a bubble wand, and zip a zipper.

    Gross Motor Skills

    Crawling, jumping and running through and around the box improve your child’s gross motor skills, as does balancing and mastering an obstacle course. Every time he climbs into or out of that box, he is getting stronger and more proficient at moving his body!

    That Box Can Help with Social-Emotional Development

    Your child might have siblings, and they might play with that box together. What a great opportunity to build social-emotional skills like working together, sharing, compromising, negotiating, empathy, sympathy, etc. It’s a BIG job to manage your own feelings! Inevitably, conflicts will arise – how will your child get through these conflicts? Will he talk, cry, whine, hit, or something else? Each time he navigates a disagreement, he learns tools for the future!

    Open-Ended Toys Promote Language/Literacy Skills

    Deeply connected to social-emotional skills, language skills are necessary for all of us to get through the day. We communicate verbally as well as non-verbally. Has this box suddenly turned into a bus? Through pretend play, your child will use language to test out new words relating to buses! Drive, horn, honk, exit, money, seat, etc. – what fun he will have trying out this new vocabulary! Language and literacy also refers to the written word, which might involve making tickets for the bus, or writing the name of the bus on the side of the box. Maybe your child will need a name tag because he’s the bus driver!

    Cognitive Skills- Improve Your Child’s Problem-Solving Abilities

    Your child will be solving problems and making decisions in his own head before you hear one word of it! Where does his bus go? What’s that one song people sing about a bus!? Oh, yeah! ‘the wheels on the bus go round and round…’

    Does your child focus on creating his bus? Is he busy for thirty minutes solid before coming up for air? Or maybe he’s distracted by so many ideas at once. Open-ended play can be changed immediately by your child – with no adult help!

    Imagination – Play Without Borders is the Foundation of Learning

    This is where a box beats out a keyboard every time. On Tuesday, your child is ‘driving a bus’ with that box. By Thursday, the box has turned into a castle, and your child is the king. Your dog is a knight. Imagination has no limits.

    Open-Ended Play is Invaluable & Very Important for your Child’s Development

    Bet you never thought of a box in that way before… or even that a box could have VALUE – or, really, any open-ended toy. No amount of technology can do for the developing child’s brain what a box, a pile of clay, or a tub of wooden blocks can do.

    Tell your gift-giving friends, and remember this on your next visit to the toy aisle. You don’t need expensive toys – nor do you need a lot of toys. For engaging, self-directed learning to happen in your home, you need toys to encourage open-ended play.

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    Read More