Playdough (Part II): Mess Management

October 21, 2017
  • In part one, we learned that allowing and encouraging children to play with playdough has multiple benefits, but how do we get the benefits of playdough for our kids and not hate having it in the house? It is all about controlling and containing the mess. Here are some suggestions of ways to keep the mess manageable and makes cleanup easy.

    • Supervise – Only pull out playdough when you can supervise and keep it out of reach the rest of the time. This is an obvious one, but we have all had a time when the kids got into the playdough when we accidently left it down or we just left the room for a minute. We all know how that ends. No one wants to end up googling how to get playdough out of a dog’s hair. It is just not worth it. You want to be at least in visual site, but why not join in the fun?


    • Vinyl tablecloths are amazing – Purchase an inexpensive vinyl tablecloth and keep play only on the tablecloth. When it is time to cleanup, you can take the tablecloth outside and shake off all the little bits. Then all that is needed is to take a damp paper towel to get the little bits that don’t come off. The tablecloth can be used on the floor as a play mat, but I prefer to use it on the table. You can find deals on vinyl tablecloths on holiday clearances and sometimes at the dollar store.


    • Hard floors are a must – Only use playdough in a room that is not carpeted. This will make it easy to do a quick sweep to get the bits that snuck off the tablecloth. If they are playing on the floor, make it a practice to shake off their bodies while still on the tablecloth to make sure none has stuck to them and checking to make sure no dough has stuck to the bottom of their feet. If you have decided to keep play at the table (my preference) and would rather not have to sweep, get a second inexpensive vinyl tablecloth to us as a drop cloth under the table. It can be easily shaken off as well.


    • Keep hands clean – Wash and dry your child’s hands before playdough use and immediately after playdough use. This will keep your dough more germ free and make it so you can use the dough longer. Washing afterward will get off any bits that would have the potential to transfer to another object.


    • Dough is not for throwing – Put away the dough immediately if your child starts to throw the dough. Tell them that dough is not for throwing and let them know that they will have another chance to play with the dough in a day or two. And if they throw the dough you will put it away for a few days because throwing dough is not allowed. Most children love playing with dough enough that they will follow this rule. We want them to experiment with the dough, but we still can set parameters.  


    • Carpet know how – Even with precaution sometimes a piece of dough can end up in the carpet, but I find it never or rarely happens if I follow the above guidelines. But if it does, there are multiple things you can do to get any pieces out. Sometimes only one step is needed, but sometimes it takes a combination of the methods to get a dough piece completely out.
      1. Pick off any excess by hand or use a larger dough-ball to gently press against the little pieces being careful not to press too hard and get the larger dough-ball stuck to the carpet. This picks up all the little pieces in one swoop.
      2. Next, run a vacuum over the spot to get any pieces that were missed. I like doing this as a second step because some vacuums will ground the loose pieces into the carpet rather than pick them up. If all but the smallest pieces are up, this doesn’t usually happen.
      3. If there are pieces that got ground in, let them dry. Then use a stiff brush to work the dough loose and vacuum up the bits. Be careful to not overwork your carpet and make it fuzzy and you want to make sure you don’t pull up some of your carpet with the dough.
      4. If necessary, then use a hot damp cloth to wipe up anything left. White cloths work best so you don’t risk color transfer from the cloth to the floor.  You may need to set the cloth on the dough piece for a few minutes to re-soften the dough before wiping.

    It doesn’t take much observation to recognize how a child benefits from playdough. We can take steps to keep the mess manageable allowing them to get the benefits without driving ourselves crazy.


    Want to try making your own dough? Here is one of our favorite recipes.

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