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Have you watched the Pixar movie Inside Out?
We finally watched it last weekend, and I have to admit, it surpassed every bit of my expectations. We loved it so much in fact, that we are considering going to the movies a second time to watch it all over again after the 4th of July weekend. The discussion after we walked out of the theater turned into a gazillion thoughts about our new favorite movie. Each of us had our own favorite part.
The topic for the rest of the night (and the following days) quickly became all about emotions. So, I took the opportunity to expand on the topic of interest by asking them what their favorite part of the movie was, and why. What things in their lives make them feel angry, sad, happy, scared? It was the perfect set-up. We talked up a book of feelings that day.
Why it’s important to have conversations about feelings with young children.
It’s our job as parents to teach them how to manage this complex part of life so that they don’t fall to pieces at the first sign of disappointment. Remember, young children don’t have experience managing their own feelings, let alone someone else’s. What looks like a simple obstacle to us adults, can be a rollercoaster maze to a young child. The good news is that children are resilient and learn best by example.
After watching the movie, I realized it’s been a long time since we dove into this topic. I found myself wondering what else we could do to reinforce the importance of understanding these emotions.
As luck would have it, a few days later, we went to Walmart for some groceries and other items we needed. While passing through the aisles, we found an Inside Out display on the main aisle across from the toys and bikes. Both my son and daughter were ecstatic (as was I) to see all five plush main characters there: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. I knew this was the perfect opportunity to continue on the topic of feelings, so we brought our favorite characters home with us.
Children learn best by example and through hands-on learning.
While my daughter has the heart of a saint with the ability to understand all this, my son is still learning how to interpret his and others’ feelings. Some of the best tools to help with these kinds of lessons during the preschool years are through modeling the behavior ourselves, as well as stimulating the senses. The senses awaken emotions in a different way that plain words can’t. This is why it’s always good to change the approach we take in teaching children how to communicate.
In this case, a simple homemade playdough recipe can be a perfect tool to do just that. It not only requires the use of strength and touch to manipulate the dough, but it creates opportunities in which children can engage in natural discussions with their peers. Children want those connections, we just have to provide a setting that creates those opportunities.
A preschool activity about emotions.
Playdough can provide more than just fine motor skill experiences! When searching for a playdough recipe, you’ll find that most recipes for homemade playdough are either cooked or use cream of tartar. When I first started working in the preschool classroom, I bought a jar of cream of tartar once for a playdough recipe. After watching a more experienced Teacher whip up a batch in no time with flour, oil, water, and a ton of salt, I never bought cream of tartar again.
It is, however, the easiest playdough recipe for a child to make. Preschoolers might need a little bit of your help, but this should be easy for a school-age child to make on their own. I’ll show you.
Actually, my 7-year-old will.
That’s one of the beauties about a playdough recipe that doesn’t have to be cooked. Usually, you can give or take a pinch or two of ingredients, or skip a step in the process, and it still comes out ok.
None of it will make any sense when you start because of the amount of flour that doesn’t stick at first, but trust me, it will all be right in the end.
To help reiterate the emotions, I printed images of each character and had the plush dolls on the chairs next to us to use as models. We talked about their body positions, their eyes, the colors that represented each emotion, and even practiced saying the emotions in Spanish.
We haven’t had this much fun with playdough in a while. We typically create more abstract and three-dimensional objects, so this was a nice change. I encourage you to try it at home. Watch the movie with your children. Pick up a plush doll at Walmart, and go make some playdough to recreate the different emotions and their facial expressions. Practice making the faces for fun, too!
If you’ve watched the movie already, feel free to share your thoughts about it in the comments! I’m curious to know what others thought of it.
Can’t make playdough today? Pin the picture below on Pinterest for later!
Simple Homemade Playdough Recipe
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- gel food coloring of your choice
In a medium bowl, combine the flour and cornstarch. Mix well.
In a small bowl or medium cup, combine the water, gel food coloring, and oil. Mix well
Add the colored water to the dough and stir until it begins to form a ball of dough. Turn out the dough with all the remaining flour onto a clean hard surface. Knead well until smooth.
Store in an airtight container when not in use.
If the dough starts to get a little dry, rub a little bit of oil on it with your fingers and knead it again. Store in an airtight container, wrapped in plastic wrap, or in a ziplock bag with all the air removed.
This playdough is only good for two or three days at most.