Play dough

Benefits of play dough for kids

Play dough has to be one of the most versatile craft materials kids can play with!  Here are some of the many benefits and learning opportunities kids can gain from playing with play dough.

Sensory input

The feeling of squeezing and squishing play dough can be very therapeutic and have a wonderful calming effect, especially if you add essential oils like lavender, lemon, orange, peppermint or rose.  You can also add to the sensory experience with other scents and textures, such as fresh/dried herbs and spices, rice, sand/dirt, seeds etc.


Photo credits: The imagination tree, Danya Banya, Mama Papa Bubba, Nurture Store

Fine motor skills development

The process of exploring play dough by squeezing, squashing, rolling, flattening, cutting and poking strengthens hand and finger muscles, which helps prepare kids for using pencils and scissors.  Poking different objects into the play dough also helps strengthen finger muscles, as well as improving hand/eye coordination.  Adding different materials to the dough also provides a range of creative play opportunities.


Photo credits: Kids play box, Be a fun mum, Plain Vanilla Mom, The OT Toolbox

Here are just some of the objects/materials your kids could try adding to their play dough experiences:

  • feathers, flowers, leaves, pine cones, rocks/pebbles, shells, sticks
  • beads, bottle tops, buttons, corks, glass gems, pipe cleaners, straws, toothpicks, wooden pegs/popsticks/rounds
  • beans, pasta, rice, salt
  • recycled boxes, containers, egg cartons
  • blocks, Lego, marbles, nuts and bolts
  • candles and cupcake liners
  • stamps, wooden letters and numbers

You can also use a range of tools such as:

  • baking trays, cake/muffin tins, cookie cutters, rolling pins
  • knives and forks, scissors
  • garlic press, ice cream scoop, pizza cutter, potato masher, tongs

Imaginative play

There are so many different opportunities for creative play with play dough, including:

  • role play – eg making food for a bakery, ice cream store, pizza shop
  • small world play – eg beach, construction, dinosaurs, fairies, farm, garden, jungle, robots, space, zoo

pretend play

Photo credits: One perfect day, The imagination tree, Fantastic fun and learning, Frugal fun 4 boys

Literacy & numeracy

Play dough also provides learning opportunities for both literacy and numeracy, such as:

  • making letters and numbers out of the dough
  • writing letters and numbers with sticks in the dough
  • pressing alphabet or number beads/stamps/tiles into the dough
  • making balls for counting
  • making 2D and 3D shapes or hands for a clock


Photo credits: Learning 4 kids, Kidz activities, School time snippetsPlaydough to Plato


Our favourite no cook play dough recipe is:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • natural food colouring, eg turmeric (yellow), paprika (orange), spirulina (green), beetroot powder (pink)

Mix all ingredients together and knead until smooth.  Store in an airtight container.

What is your kids’ favourite thing to make/do with play dough?

We would love to see their play dough creations – just post to Facebook or Instagram with #littlegreencrafters 🙂

For more fun play dough activity ideas go to our Pinterest page here.


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