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Early Years Diary: Bringing Books to life with Playdough

Although Literacy is not considered a ‘prime’ area of learning, it links closely with the key areas as it encourages communication and language skills, helps children understand and articulate their emotions and can even be linked with physical development (when acting out stories). Books and stories are an incredible way to help children learn in engaging and limitless ways.

After speaking with local schools and reviewing the development of the current cohort, a gap was noticed in regard to literacy skills. Recognising that literacy is not only an important area reviewed by OFSTED, but also beneficial for the children, we came up with an innovative way of bringing books to life, through playdough.

Photographer: Julietta Watson | Source: Unsplash

We observed that, while we have accessible book corners for the children, they were not really being utilised very often, or for ‘reading’. The same handful of children would be seen interacting there, but otherwise it was mainly used for group activities. So, while talking with staff, we thought of how we might promote a love of books and so we began the playdough project.

The idea is to select a book of interest to the children and, while reading it, allow the children to create their interpretations of the story with the playdough. This could be anything from making the characters to creating elements within the locations. It essentially becomes an extension of the book, helping children understand how stories are sequenced but giving them the freedom to decipher the story however they please.

This idea builds on the children’s language, fine motor skills and comprehension. The activity can be adapted in many ways, e.g. by having the children listen to the story, or looking at the pages and coming up with their own ideas about what they think might happen next.

Photographer: Ben White | Source: Unsplash

There has also been great success in using this activity to develop a better understanding of emotions. The children have acted out feelings using the playdough in delightfully creative ways; when asked to show ‘happiness’ they tickled the playdough and told it jokes, displaying how they interpret this emotion. When asked how they might make a tree happy, they made it grow, stating that “it is happy because it’s growing.”

Each child will have their own unique experience from the same occurrence, and the same goes for reading books. They will each take away different aspects from the same book and, by giving them the opportunity to explore this with playdough, they have demonstrated this wonderfully.

The children’s interests link to the theme of the books and displays within the room, so although the activity is in some ways guided by an adult, the idea is to make it very much a child-led activity. They show us what they are interested in at that moment in time and we adapt their learning around those interests.

We also try to involve parents as much as possible with their children’s learning. By informing them about our current themes and what the children are learning about, we can keep parent relationships strong and keep communication open and meaningful.

We appreciate individual circumstances and know that some children may not have access to books at home, so we have a library of books that we can share with the parents. This has been more challenging with the onset of Covid as we are having to seal and separate books prior to handing them out, but it is worth the effort as it gives fair opportunities to all the children and their families.

Photographer: Picsea | Source: Unsplash

The versatility of playdough means that it can be moulded in whatever ways the children see fit. There is no right or wrong creation that can be made; it is simply down to the children’s imaginations and their portrayal of the stories. Physically engaging with the playdough in this way appeals to the children more than just sitting down and listening to an adult talking.

Thinking outside the box and coming up with new ways to interact with stories and books means that more children and families are getting involved with literacy, and genuinely enjoying it. The project has had such a positive impact on the children and their learning and, by continuing to do this activity, we are hopefully closing the gap in their learning which Covid created.

How are you helping to promote a love of literacy? Share your ideas and experiences using the hashtag #mynurserylife