When I first placed the round balls of tan playdough in front of the children they seemed hesitant. We had just had a conversation about how the dough is made for your hands to use and not for eating. WB, who had originally sat down excitedly at the table now looked at me confused with his arms upwards in a shrugging motion.
“You can poke it, or squeeze it, smush it, smash it” I said to the group.
WB shook his head no and seemed displeased. I poked a hole in the top of the smooth dough ball in front of him to show the soft texture. He looked into the hole and then at my finger and frowned.
“If you smash it or rip it, there is a surprise in the middle.” I said, trying to encourage them.
ZC tore hers in half and yelled “It’s orange!”
“I want purple” said LR.
“Well you can open yours to see what color you got” I replied then watched her pull apart her ball to reveal a green spot of food coloring in the center.
“I want a purple one” she repeated.
“I don’t have purple playdough for you today.” I said, ” Maybe next time we can make it purple.”
“ZC has yellow and I have green. I wanted purple” LR reflected
AB echoed “I want purple playdough!”
JS immediately began pinching off little pieces and piling them back on top. “It’s a toy chest!” he exclaimed.
WS took the ball into his hands and ripped it into halves, then half again and again until it was scattered across the table.
AB and FB flattened the ball with their palms and carefully poked many little holes in it with their finger tips.
Several friends were still not interested in the sensory experience of digging their fingers into the playdough so we passed out plastic scissors. With tools, the playdough seemed much more approachable to our more cautious friends.
After some kneading, the dough began to change color. The children noticed their friends had different colors and began negotiating trades.
“Green!” said WS while pointing at FB’s playdough.
WS and FB started passing different colored shreds up playdough back and forth to create a new color. LR and ZC traded yellow and green playdough and mixed theirs together as well. Soon everyone had a little bit of every color.
Everyone began with a plain tan ball of dough and we ended with a swirling colorful combination of blues, greens, turquiose and yellow scattered across the tables.
All of our friends came to the table with something different and they chose to share and collaborate with their peers to make something new.