Playdough activities: why they’re good for children
Playdough is a wonderful sensory and learning experience for children.
As your child shapes the playdough into a ball or a snake, they’re thinking creatively. The squeezing, pinching and pulling movements also strengthen your child’s hand muscles and develop their fine motor skills.
And if you give your child some tools and toys to add to the playdough activity, you can really spark your child’s imagination and creativity.
What you need for playdough activities
- Bought or homemade playdough – see the recipes below
- Tools for cutting, shaping and making patterns – for example, paddle-pop sticks, plastic knives and forks, rolling pins, cookie cutters and so on
- Things for imaginative play – for example, plastic animals, toy cars, natural objects like sticks and seashells, or pretend baking equipment like muffin trays or cake tins
How to play with playdough
Your child can play with playdough anywhere, but it’s best to sit your child at a table. This gives your child a good work surface and can stop things from getting too messy. You can use a plastic placemat if you want to keep the surface clean.
Here’s how to get started:
- Let your child experiment with the playdough.
- Show your child how to roll, stretch and flatten playdough.
- Talk about how the playdough feels and what your child is making.
Here are ideas to help your child get creative with playdough:
- Give your child objects to use for making patterns in the playdough. For example, your child could use a fork to make a dot pattern. Your child could press a seashell into the playdough or make tracks with a toy car.
- Encourage imaginative play with muffin trays and pretend baking equipment. For example, your child could pretend they’re making a cake with the playdough.
- Give your child plastic animals to use with the playdough. For example, your child could make a lake for the ducks or roll some playdough into balls to make apples for a horse.
- Make playdough people with your child. Your child can bend them into different poses. Or your child can squish them up and start again if they want to.
If you’re making your own playdough, you can get your child involved. Let your child measure, pour and mix the ingredients. Your child will feel excited and proud that they’re making their own toy.
Adapting for children of different ages or children with diverse abilities
Your younger child might just want to enjoy the sensation of playdough or stick to making shapes and textures.
Your older child might like to make things like animals or people.
The most important thing is to follow your child’s lead, and let your child use the playdough in a way that suits their interests.
All children learn and develop through play. Our articles on play and autistic children and play and children with disability are great starting points for adapting this activity guide for children with diverse abilities. You might also like to explore our activity guides for children with diverse abilities.
Homemade playdough recipes
This playdough keeps well in the fridge. Its high salt content makes it taste unpleasant. It isn’t safe to eat.
- 2 cups plain flour
- 4 tablespoons cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 cup salt
- Food colouring
- 2 cups water
- Mix the ingredients in a saucepan.
- Stir over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until mixture binds and congeals.
- Place all ingredients except water in a large, heat-resistant bowl. Mix.
- Boil water and then add it to the other ingredients in the bowl. Stir until a dough forms.
This playdough is best for younger children. It won’t last as long as cooked playdough.
- 2 cups plain flour
- ½ cup of oil
- Food colouring
- Mix oil and flour.
- Add food colouring.
- Slowly mix in water until you get the consistency you want.
Playdough isn’t a food, but sometimes children are tempted to taste it. If it’s hard to stop your child putting things into their mouth, use salt-free playdough, which is safer.