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December 23, 2011

Change the Play: modify a too-old toy into playable fun

My almost-4 year old daughter just got a Play-Doh Pizza Shop kit from her grandparents for Chanukah.  It has a little dough pressing "oven",  little molds to make various toppings, and a swirling cheese "grater".  Now Avi is a play-doh-aholic and we go through this stuff like mad, but she doesn't quite have the fine motor manual dexterity to work all the bells and whistles with this toy, and worse, became frustrated as a result.  This turned into a marathon of "you do it mom!" and swiftly became Avi-watches-mommy-play-with-Play-Doh-gizmo.  And telling me what topping to mold got pretty boring for her rather quickly.
Play-Doh brand Twirl and Top Pizza Shop kit.

Still she really wanted to play with it, so I got a little creative and turned it into a make-believe experience.  I hopped on Word, hunted down some simple clip art that represented the "toppings" she has on her mold tray, and created a very simple Menu.  I created 'recipe' cues by adding a row of three topping pictures to create a pizza for the menu, for a total of three combos.  This I printed on card stock.  Then I downloaded some play money, and printed a few sheets of this on regular copy paper.

She picked out the colors she wanted me to make the toppings with, and I made a few piles of toppings--they have to squish Play Doh into a small mold square (about one-inch squared) and then gently peel the molded item out of the mold, and then very gently cut away the excess Play Doh from the molded part.  Not easy for toddler hands.  Neither is the swirl locked cheese press.  So I made some of the grated cheese and toppings for her, and we played Restaurant with the menu and money.  She still got to play with the Play Doh toy ("bake" the crust, add toppings, cut it with the pizza wheel, use the server to put slices on a plate, etc) without the tricky parts.  I "ordered" my pizza, she built it and served it to me, I "ate" it and paid her, etc.

This little modification gave her a solid 2 hours of entertainment, while just the toy itself had managed to frustrate her (and annoy me) inside 15 minutes just because parts of it were a little "too old" for her.  And think of all the useful things she's learning from the dramatic play aspect:  following directions, role play, etc.

If you have this toy or something similar, you can check out and download my menu template, and the go get free play money templates here.

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