Just when I thought I was safe from Playdough.

Last Friday I was finally able to meet with Bee’s teachers to discuss the trouble she’s been having in school. We talked a lot about what isn’t working, and a little bit about what seems to be working, and during that conversation, we centered on how Bee seems to be a very tactile learner.

Bee’s homeroom and math/sciences teacher this year was the teacher’s aide during Bee’s year in kindergarten. It’s so helpful to have the input from someone who observed Bee’s learning style the year she first learned to read. (Besides me – we all know the teachers are going to take Mom’s thoughts with a grain of salt.) Ms. M. remembers how they taught the kids to sound out words by patting out the sounds and syllables on their arms. So like for “cat”, the kids would pat their shoulders and make a hard “C” sound – “ka”. Then they would pat the middle of their arm and make an “ah” sound. They would pat their wrist and make a “t” sound. Then they would run their hand down the length of their arm, blending the sounds together. “Ka-ah-ttt. Ka-a-t. Cat.” There were obviously many other tricks that were taught to the kids to help them learn to read, but that was one strategy that really worked for Bee.

We went over that again and talked about the things that aren’t working for Bee – writing out her spelling words five times each, reciting the words outloud over and over, using them in sentences or stories. The repetition doesn’t help. Rote memory doesn’t help. So Ms. M. and Ms. P. gave me some ideas of how to make spelling and phonics tactile again. She could spell out words in shaving foam, or sugar, or sand or flour. She could trace out the letters on sandpaper, to get that feeling of the letters really ingrained in her fingertips. And she could actually form the letters as she spelled them out with clay or Playdough.

I hate Playdough. HATE it. Oh, I loved playing with it as a kid – I was such a good little baker, making treats that my mom pretended to buy. But as a mom? Loathe it. It crumbles and spills and gets wedged under fingernails. It smells. It smooshes into the carpet and hides when you think you’ve cleaned it all up. Then the little pieces harden and stab the bottoms of your feet. Blech. So of course I decided last year that the girls were now old enough to live without the (seldom allowed) joys of Playdough and I threw it all out. There may have been a happy dance involved. But then again, I love my 7-year-old. And I am really cheering as hard as I can for her to do well in school. If she needs some new tools to help her then… demmit.

I bought Playdough.

I got a party pack with 15 little party-favor-sized containers and explained to Bee what we were about to do. Each container should be enough to form a letter, and then clean-up would – hopefully – be easier when we just had to bundle the letters back into the containers. Each letter being a different color would hopefully help the letters stand out in her mind, and would look prettier, and, hey, would just be more fun all the way around if she got to use pink AND purple AND teal AND green.

I think she agreed. Monday night Bee spent nearly an hour “playing” with Playdough and recreating all of the words on her spelling list. It was nice enough outside that I got to banish the evil, evil Playdough to the patio table, saving my kitchen carpet from certain doom. I know winter is coming (HA!) and eventually the shenanigans will be moved inside, but maybe I can convince her to move on to sand and shaving cream and sandpaper by then. Or sugar! I bet I can bribe her with sugar! Hey! COOKIE DOUGH! Yes, yes – I am willing to make cookie dough and let her line up spelling words with sugar and chocolate chips just to avoid Playdough. It’s the anti-precious.

Here’s hoping that this tactile learning experience will make a difference. If it doesn’t, we’ll move on to Plan C.  And in the meantime, at least we’re enjoying a few smiles. I’ll take every single one I can get!




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One Response to “Just when I thought I was safe from Playdough.”

  1. Kathy Says:

    Love that you were finally able to meet with the teachers & that you came up with a plan. I never had that need to avoid Playdough as a parent but we almost always make our own (still). How did this week’s spelling test go?

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