Olivia Crawford and Samantha Broadwater are Simpson Elementary teachers and friends. They are also new entrepreneurs. In business as The Dough Ladies, the second-grade educators specialize in homemade sensory kits for children.
“Our whole goal as early elementary educators and moms to young children is to encourage open-ended sensory play for kids of all ages and abilities,” Broadwater said. “So, we took our backgrounds as mothers and teachers and mixed the two. We put together things that would encourage kids to sit down and focus on something while using their imaginations.”
Simply put, the women based their idea on the fact that kids love to play, then put more purpose behind it.
On the educational side of things, Crawford said, the kits enable children to work on fine motor skills.
“There are several benefits of sensory play and most parents don’t know that, but I think it’s catching on within the community, especially with kids who attend Montessori school. They really focus on sensory play and we see language development, a precursor for writing, development of fine motor skills, and scientific thinking,” she said.
The Dough Ladies create various kits featuring homemade playdough and manipulatives, such as scoops and shovels, rolling pins, cookie cutters, stampers, pom poms, tiny figurines, and more. The kits contain items of different textures, making touch tempting.
“We put a lot of thought into carefully creating the manipulative; how to help with fine motor as well as well as sensory components, combining different textures, sizes, and scents,” Broadwater said.
The concept has already taken off through the school system.
“We launched it here at Simpson Elementary and there’s been overwhelming positivity from Pre-K to 5th grade and special education,” Crawford said.
It is anticipated that soon, the kits will be offered to Harrison and Marion County schools and through the WV Autism Training Center at Marshall University.
And, of course, The Dough Ladies’ own children have given the kits their own stamp of approval. There are no instructions necessary; just put the kits in front of a child and they will show you how to utilize them.
Structured schooling may be important, but freestyle sensory play is, too, Crawford said.
“Kids are so used to completing a task with explicit directions and sometimes, they have a hard time creating on their own,” she said.
The kits can be purchased at thedoughladies.com. In the near future, they will also be available at About You Monograms in Bridgeport.
In addition to standard kits, there are monthly drops; the latest being Easter-themed kits.
“They have three different colored scented doughs, a rabbit, sheep, porcupine, eggs, chicks, little foam eggs, large plastic eggs, Easter grass, a hopping bunny, cookie-cutter/stamper and pom-poms, roller, a piping bag that looks like a carrot,” Broadwater said. “We want to hit on all the senses and tie everything in.”
The kits reach children ages 3-8 of all abilities and bring families together to engage in educational, hands-on, imaginative, screen-free time.
Learn more at thedoughladies.com.