The Power of Dough
Thursday night, five children ranging from age 18 months to 9 years old were gathered around my coffee table, amicably playing together. They had found a toy that is truly for all ages. My Eldest had two of her friends over for dinner (what mom allows that on a schoolnight?? Bad planning…). Things had gone reasonably well. The girls played with the Middle One for a while, which of course he desperately wanted. Then they kicked him out and he helped me make salad. He was feeling a little rejected but I’m (naively) hopeful that my company made up for it. We all had dinner together, and while I got complaints about only having one hotdog each, and about the 3lbs of french fries not being enough, they all ended up leaving food on their plates.
After one girl had left the table, she suddenly spotted our play-dough ice-cream machine. “MrsH, can we please play with that?” I even gave them some fresh colors. One by one, the kids were excused and each went over to the play-dough. “May I play too?” (ha, that was just in my dreams. They just joined in, actually, fighting over who got to use the color green). There were a few tense moments of negotiation over who would be ice-cream makers and who would be the customers, but those were quickly settled and when the parents came a half an hour later, I had dinner cleaned up and five children peacefully playing together. I felt like supermom.
I’m not though. If I were really supermom, I’d make the dough instead of buying the tubs of brightly colored stuff. But similar to playing with water, playing with dough satisfies the senses, resulting in calmer and more peaceful play. It’s on my list of toys for coping with witching hour. I’ve also successfully pulled it out for the preschool crowd when a playdate was about to head south. Even my toddler group (a group of 6 toddlers who get together weekly, supervised by two moms while the rest take a break) has had remarkable success using dough to keep the 1 year-olds at the table for more than two seconds.
We also use some other iterations. While play-dough is great, it can’t beat real dough! When I make pizza or rolls the kids always help. I recently started making bread from scratch and the kids can’t resist helping with that. On the rare occasion that we bake cookies, they want to get all into the dough. Once I caught myself saying “it’s just like rolling out play-dough.” But I quickly realized that I had it reversed: play-dough is just like rolling out bread- or cookie-dough! For Christmas we work with salt-dough. And the diaper bag had, for the longest time, a silly-putty egg in it. Dough feels good, is calming, and is easily shared. What more could I ask for in a toy?