I was reading Montessori at Home! recently (which, by the way, is a really great book if you want to start doing Montessori activities with your kids but don't know where to begin), and in it, John Bowman says that if play dough had been around when Maria Montessori was doing her thing, it would have been a regular part of the Montessori classroom. The more we use it around here, the more I see what he means. When it comes to developing fine motor skills, play dough is where it's at. (Fyi, I make my own play dough, and you can find the recipe in this post.)
For the past month or so, Elijah has been seeking opportunities to use scissors. He has the basic motion down, and is working on the correct placement of his fingers, but has not yet been able to master the making of successive cuts. He tends to make one small cut, then just rip the paper the rest of the way. I tried getting him interested in cutting smaller strips of paper, he wanted "a whole piece". Our house was starting to overflow with ripped up paper. That was okay, but how to get him more scissor practice? Yep. Play dough.
Elijah typically uses the Fiskar's kid scissors (like these) for his paper-cutting, but for the play dough cutting, we pulled out his Crayola scissors, since they have proved useless in the cutting of paper. Because he is still working in single cuts, I rolled out a play dough "snake" for him, then demonstrated how to hold it slightly back from the end and cut off a chunk. When he's ready for making more than one cut in a row, I will form the play dough into more of a disc shape, I think.
And, while we were on the subject of cutting stuff, I added in a butter knife. The critical pieces with that seemed to be working on using the rough edge to do the cutting, and employing a sawing motion. Now that I have demonstrated these tools, I am interested to see what happens if I set up the activity again this week and leave him to it.
Oh, play dough. You are awesome.