3 – 4

Plasticine and marla


Plasticine and marla

What to do with this activity?

Having fun poking, rolling, stamping and kneading plasticine, playdough or marla (as it's known in Ireland) is great for children.  They can use their imaginations and make simple animals (one little ball for a head, one bigger ball for the body), or create biscuits, pizzas and cupcakes. They can cut out shapes with plastic cookie cutters, or press a house key or button into the marla to make an impression. All this play will make their little hands stronger and more flexible for future writing.  

Here are some ideas from Childhood 101 - although we favour shop-bought playdough/marla/plasticine which doesn't stain little hands. 

Make sure your child is supervised throughout. Plasticine is not for eating.

  • Why am I doing this?

    There are at least four stages in learning to write. The first is movement - your child learning to control their body and their hands - reaching, feeling and holding things - is part of this first stage.


    The second stage is making marks - seeing that if you put this crayon here and move it, it makes a mark.


    Drawing is a third stage.


    The fourth then is learning how to make letters and later words.


    For your child, the more they are aware about how useful writing is, the better. Seeing you writing is great and you pointing out other people writing will help them see how useful it is too.

  • How can I do more?

    It’s always good to keep crayons and paper close at hand, so that you can give them to your child anytime to play with.


    Write words under your child’s drawing – like their name or what they have drawn – that will help them understand the meaning of words.


    Later you could clip 10 or 12 of these drawings together to make a book. This will show your child how books can be made.


    Let your child see you writing – notes, lists, letters and emails. If you don't write much yourself, show your child other people writing when you are out and about.


    Encourage your child to use ‘pretend’ writing in play - writing their own name, notices or price lists. You could even give them a little notebook when you go to the shops or when they’re playing ‘shop’ with their friends.

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