Playdough activities: why they’re good for children

Playdough is a wonderful sensory and learning experience for your child. As she shapes the playdough into a ball or a snake, she’s thinking creatively. The squeezing, pinching and pulling movements also strengthen your child’s hand muscles and develop her 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, ice-cream 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 him at a table so he has a good work surface and things don’t get 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 make patterns in the playdough. For example, your child could use a fork to make a dot pattern. She 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 he’s 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 she can squish them up and start again if she wants to.

If you’re making your own playdough, you can get your child involved. Let him measure, pour and mix the ingredients. He’ll feel excited and proud that he’s making his own toy.

Adapting for children of different ages

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 her use the playdough in a way that suits her interests.

Homemade playdough recipes

Cooked playdough
This playdough keeps well in the fridge. Its high salt content makes it taste unpleasant. It isn’t safe to eat.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 4 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 cup salt
  • food colouring
  • 2 cups water

Method:

  1. Mix the ingredients in a saucepan.
  2. Stir over a medium heat for about five minutes until mixture binds and congeals.

Salt-free playdough
This playdough is best for younger children. It won’t last as long as cooked playdough.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • ½ cup of oil
  • food colouring
  • water

Method:

  1. Mix oil and flour.
  2. Add food colouring.
  3. 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 his mouth, use salt-free playdough, which is safer.