Playdough culturally insensitive to Maori, says institute

3 News 25 Aug 2012
Playdough is considered one of the best educational tools by some people, but early childhood centres are being warned to think first before using it.

The warning comes from Maori educators, who say it is culturally insensitive.  They also question whether playdough, potato prints or macaroni necklaces should be used when some families cannot afford to put food on the table.

Meg Moss of Minimarc Childcare Centre says though that playdough is a great learning tool for young children.

“I haven’t found anything that quite replaces it for helping children develop manipulative skills and it’s fairly economic compared with commercial products,” she says.  It’s much easier for very small children to use, much easier than clay.”

But Judith Nowotarski of the New Zealand Educational Institute says playdough is a waste of perfectly good flour that could be made into bread.

 “I don’t think any culture intentionally goes in and says it’s ok to play with kai, it’s ok to play with food or play with ingredients.  I don’t think anybody does that in this day and age. We’ve got to think about sustainability,” she says.

Ms Nowotarski says some kohanga reo have stopped using food, including playdough, as a play tool because it’s culturally insensitive and a waste.

“We removed things like pasta and so on for threading and baking for that reason,” she says.  “There are families out there who struggle.”