We often make props for our puppet plays using salt dough which is non-toxic, easy to prepare – no cooking required (recipe in my ‘beads’ post here), immensely tactile and can be dried very hard to create items for dolls houses, pretend play and, of course, puppet plays.
The most detailed objects can be made with salt dough :
In play therapy, clay is often used because:
[it] is malleable and three dimensional and it can become anything a child wants it to become. It can embody a representational form or an abstract one… once form has emerged … it may become fixed and permanent, or be crushed and rolled back up into a ball. Creating different forms can help a child find a way of expressing their inner emotions and thoughts.
(See her full article here.)
As with clay, playing with soft mouldable matter such as salt dough can benefit children in many ways:
The simple malleability of the dough allows self-expression through mark-making and by adding new materials such as soil, sticks, petals, food colour.
In our StoryHug workshops, we are usually creating props for our puppet play and there is great focus throughout the session, with each child able to give form to their ideas. Often children talk through their plans, enjoying the freedom within the brief to make whatever they envision.
Play is a vital part of being yourself, of making space for ideas and the need to make, to imagine freely, and connect. This little poem says it well:
Play Therapy Poem
I tried to teach my child from books
He gave me only puzzled looks
I tried to teach my child from words
They passed him by, often unheard
Despairingly, I turned aside
“How shall I teach this child?” I cried
Into my hand he placed a key,
“Come,” he said, “And play with me.” Anonymous
In these StoryHug workshops we made favourite foods to feed a hungry tiger – the villain in my re-telling of The Three Little Pigs and their encounter with Ena and Tib, two little children who live in the woods!
There was much discussion and many ideas tried, re-tried, abandoned, new ones begun and expanded as items were prepared for the play. There was improvisation using materials to hand: in beautiful Grow Mayow Community Garden there was ‘salad’:
…and, through the magic of a little boy’s imagination: ‘dumplings and noodles’:
At the Mother House artist project, there were bananas and lemons and “chocolate cookies” made with woodchip gathered from around Paradise Yard:
Making props for storytelling ensures a sense of ownership of the story and I can luxuriate in the rapt engagement of my audience as our play unfolds – especially when the tiger is discovered to prefer eating the delicacies offered by the children to gobbling up the Three Little Pigs!
(He rather likes my post-workshop coffee too!)