Distribute sticks or lumps of play-dough to each person.
Instruct each person to mold the play-dough into an object or artful expression which represents their response to one or more questions you pose.
Allow 1 to 2 minutes for creation time.
Invite one or more people to exhibit and describe their play-dough creation to the rest of the group.
How To Play Narrative
As a particularly strong verbal communicator, I am constantly aware of the need to vary my processing strategies, especially those which reflect more non-verbal and arty expressions. The play-dough debrief fits the bill.
In advance, grab a tub or several sticks of play-dough, the more colours the better. Take a look at Leadership Tips tab if you’d like to learn how to make your own play-dough.
Once you have gathered your group, distribute the play-dough to each person in your group. A handful of play-dough is normally enough for each person to work with.
Now instruct your group to create something with the play-dough they are holding which represents their response to a question or two that you pose. For example, you could ask them to create an expression of how they felt at the end of the activity, or build an object that represents how successful they think their group has been, etc.
Keep your questions open-ended, and provide ample time for your group to shape their dough.
When ready, and if appropriate, invite one or more of your group members to show off their play-dough and explain the rationale behind their creation.
Without exception, I am always blown-away by how creative my groups can be in this exercise.
Practical Leadership Tips
Take a look at Useful Debriefing Tips to learn about the benefits of processing your group’s experience, and how to run a successful debrief.
Honouring the Challenge by Choicephilosophy, allow people to ‘pass’ if they would prefer not to respond to your request to share what their creation means with the larger group.
With particularly young people, you may wish to pose your question first, and then distribute the play-dough – otherwise you may lose their focus very quickly.
Most people over the age of 10 years do not consider themselves particularly arty. So, it may help if you demonstrate your meagre artistic skills to provide a visual demonstration of what is required.
DIY Play-Dough Recipe
You can make play-dough pretty easily. Indeed, you can integrate this exercise into your program:
Ingredients: 1 cup salt, 3 cups plain flour, (1 tbsp) vegetable oil, food colouring, 250ml (1 cup) water
Method: Mix all the dry ingredients and add oil. Add the food colouring to water. Slowly add the water until the desired consistency is reached. Lots of kneading will help to improve the texture.
You could integrate Play-Dough Debrief as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group understand their emotions, thoughts and values and how these influence behaviour in different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
The evocative nature of moulding play-dough is ideal for exploring and developing emotional literacy. Help your group to explore what they are creating and/or interpreting in their creations to help them identify, explore and navigate a range of emotions such as compassion and empathy, frustration, conflict, joy and sorrow.
Creating something out of nothing (a lump of play-dough) can be a powerful self-reflection exercise that can assist your group to be present to what they are feeling. Invite your group to be still and quiet to help them focus on their experience – or a part of it – and then ask them to mould the play-dough to discover what comes up for them. Encourage your group that there is no one right answer and everyone’s experience of being mindful will be different.
Team Creations: Invite small groups working together to sculpt their artful expression.
Pen & Paper: Take a look at Journalling to engage your group in another equally-creative form of sharing.
Fun debrief activity to explore connections in your group.
Useful Framing Ideas
It may sound like:
“I WOULD LIKE EACH OF YOU TO SHAPE THE PLAY-DOUGH YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO CREATE AN OBJECT THAT EXPRESSES HOW YOU FELT AT THE END OF THE ACTIVITY. YOU CAN CREATE WHATEVER YOU CHOOSE, IT JUST NEEDS TO REFLECT YOUR FEELINGS…”
Creative ‘Team-Building’ Session
What You Need:
4+ people, 60 mins, set of Alphabet Equation cards (Print+Play), Jar filled with beans, shoes worn by participants, play-dough