Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Before I had children, I thought that playdough was such a great toy. It looked like so much fun, there was so much scope for creativity, you could make your own, you could give them away as gifts, there were so many tools that you could buy for it, it was so colourful and so versatile.

When Ryan came along and we had our first playdough set, I confess that I wasn't that fond of it. I guess it was a case of "the grass is greener on the other side". When I didn't have the chance to play with it, I thought it was such a great thing. Once I had it, I found it ... not so great. 

One of the first sets of playdough we had came with a plastic fridge and all sorts of tools to shape the playdough. Ryan enjoyed that and we played with it regularly. It was a nightmare to clean though. All the little bits that were stuck in the crevices of the fridge and in the various tools drove me nuts. The perfectionist in me would be cleaning and scraping and saving every last bit of it. There would also be little bits everywhere on the floor or on the table or wherever. Let me repeat - it was a nightmare to clean up.

We only played with two small tubs because I refused to open any more than that. I also disliked mixing the colours up because that would mean that I would have to get new playdough for the next session. So we never made all those wonderful replicas of hamburgers and sandwiches and whatever with all the different colours in one creation. I prefered to keep things open-ended so our creations were usually some shapes and whatever fantastical things we imagined up on our own. I wish that I could say that they looked pretty but they were all mono-coloured and boring, heh heh.

Despite my efforts, we accumulated more and more playdough sets. Even as I thought that we were finally going to finish up a tub of playdough (yay!), I got saddled with five more tubs (!). I just couldn't keep up. It seemed as though everyone we knew gifted Ryan a set. We even ended up with a second plastic fridge which was identical to the one we had. As much as we appreciated the gesture behind the gifts, we couldn't feel excited every time the gift wrap revealed yet another plastic playdough contraption. My anti-excess mentality kicked in and I got quite turned off - how much playdough do you need right?

Then there were all those bright plastic toys that came with the playdough - the more there were, the less I wanted Ryan to play with them. We opened up the Sesame Street themed sets, like the Elmo that you see in these photos and, I think, one dinosaur themed one, but left the rest unopened (till today). I still restricted the actual playdough to two or three tubs and by that, I mean the original two or three tubs that we started out with.

When Ryan started preschool (at 3.5 years old), one of the things that greeted him on his first day was a table of playdough. I was so happy to see it because it meant that I could pack away the playdough at home!  There were tubs and tubs of playdough at home, most of them unopened, and several plastic playdough sets. I happily packed them all away.

Of course, I was in denial. Because the container wasn't going to vanish overnight and I couldn't just throw it away.

So when babydoll was old enough (ie. not mouthing everything in sight), I dragged out the container and opened it up for her. This time I had no problem opening up more tubs and mixing colours and in fact I fully encouraged it, because that's the way to use it up the darn thing, right? It's still a nightmare to clean, but I'm good with that because now I throw away the little pesky bits instead of stressing about making sure I collect all of the bits to keep for the next session. We still have a long, long way to go before we get through all our tubs of playdough, though. A long, long way.

And yes, it is still a great experience for the children. I remember Ryan taking some time to get used to it; now he handles it with no fuss at all. Babydoll also had an uneasy first session with it, but took to it much faster than her brother.

At the moment, I keep a tub of playdough out at all times, within the children's reach, so they have access to it at all times, together with a tray of shape cutters, rollers, and things like popsicle sticks, googly eyes, straws, feathers, chenille sticks, lego blocks, etc. Once in a while, I will drag out the big container with all the plastic equipment for them to have a go but I find that I'm much happier and more willing to initiate a playdough session if we don't have the plastic equipment around. I prefer having the children go back to basics, creating without boundaries, and working with other "non-playdough" equipment. I feel that I can really see the benefits of playdough this way.

So you see, sometimes it's not the children who need time to adjust and to learn. Sometimes the parent needs time too, hah!


Sue said...

I feel you Leona! Yes yes indeed. What messy fun it is for the kids but not so fun for the mummies... it ends up in multi-colored bits all over the table and floor.
They look like they are having fun :) and that's what matters ;)

Unknown said...

hi may i know where can i get this play-doh set?

Pinkie Pirate said...

Angela, there are two or maybe three sets in these photos, all mixed up. We got them, mostly as gifts several years ago, when Ryan was about 1-2 years old. Try Toys R Us?

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