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Posted by Casey
In Fine Motor, Play, Sensory Play, Teacher Tips on November 23, 2020

There’s no denying the fact that play dough has some serious magical powers, agree? But did you know that it’s not just an amazing sensory experience for our little learners?!

Using play dough is an excellent fine motor exercise which will help to strengthen the muscles in your child’s hands. These muscles are so important when it comes time to learn how to write!

When your child pinches, squashes, rolls and manipulates the dough, they’re also working all the little muscles in their hands and fingers. You’d never guess that it was such a great tool for their development would you?!

In our blog today, I’m going to show you how to set up your very own play dough toolkit. I’ll share all of our favourite supplies with some tips and tricks along the way!

We’ll often grab the play dough when we need a little something to get us through till dinner, or I’ll grab a pre-made play dough tub to pop in my bag if we’re heading out so that I’ve got an activity on hand if they need something to keep them occupied.

My favourite no-cook play dough recipe

There are many store-bought options out there, but it’s so easy to whip up a batch of play dough with items already in your pantry! Below is my favourite recipe – I love this one because there is no cooking on the stove and you can even the kids to help measure out the ingredients!

Having them knead the dough together is another wonderful opportunity to strengthen those hand and finger muscles. This recipe gives you a lovely light, soft texture – you might find after making fresh play dough you will never go back to buying it again!

When we make play dough, I’ll often make a double batch and split the dough into 3 or 4 balls so we can make several different colours. You can pop it in an airtight container so that it will last for weeks!

Once you’ve split the dough into balls, you can add a few drops of food colouring to each or the tiniest amount of powder dyes like the Tintex Power Dyes pictured below. I looove these because you only need the tiniest amount and you can use them to dye just about anything else you use for play as well.

Tools to get those fingers working

We have a tub filled with lots of different tools that we use with our play dough. Here are some of our favourites:

This set by growing kind has quite an amazing variety of rolls which would make an excellent addition to your play dough toolkit.

The options are endless once you start adding things to your play dough toolkit! Sometimes we’ll pop the entire tub out and see what they come up with and other times we’ll prepare a specific invitation. I’ll share some of those ideas later in the blog post.

Not only is play dough great for developing fine motor skills, it’s also a wonderful tool for developing oral language skills, early mathematical understandings, concepts and vocabulary (such as thick, thin, long, short, small, big etc) and building their creative thinking as they play – the possibilities are endless!

While there are lots of great educational benefits, let’s not forget how much fun it can be! You could grab a set of dough characters* and make some funny faces, or use it for all sorts of imaginative play.

Adding loose parts to spark the imagination

We love using natural loose parts as part of our play dough toolkit! Below you’ll see an example of a wild animal play dough invitation that I prepared for our little learners. I added some things like pebbles, sticks, wood cookies and some artificial plants cut up into smaller pieces alongside our animals, our play dough stampers and a batch of natural play dough.

I displayed this invitation using a sectioned platter from our local dollar shop or Spotlight. These are perfect for play dough invitations!

Is your little one really interested in creepy crawlies? Create them a garden themed plate full of natural loose parts, insects and bugs and some coloured play dough. Creating a theme can help them to explore a topic or allow you to follow your child’s lead and create something you know they will love!

One of our regular play dough setups is a cupcake shop – all you need is some play dough, a few silicone cupcake molds and candles. Because we use them so often now, we have a permanent stash of play dough candles and silicone cupcake molds in our tub of props! I’ve even created a cupcake shop dramatic play set so that your little ones can set up their own shop to sell all of their wonderful creations.

Create an on-the-go play dough kit

I’m such a fan of creating busy bags to keep the kids entertained when we’re out. A great alternative to using a bag for your play dough kit is to grab one of these IKEA GLIS containers! They have lots of little compartments to store all of your loose parts, though if you’re planning on keeping your play dough in here, just pop it in a sealed bag first as the containers aren’t air-tight.

Below you’ll see I’ve popped a couple of our rolling pins* in with our dough characters* and a batch of glittery play dough! You could even print off some of my play dough task cards and pop them in an envelope stuck to the lid to give your little learners some extra inspiration.

As you can see, the options are endless when it comes to play dough! We’ve curated quite the collection of play dough tools and props over the years because play dough has always been one of our sensory play essentials.

It’s amazing how a fresh batch of play dough and a few rolling pins can totally shift a cranky afternoon mood! If you’re looking for some extra play dough goodness to add to your stash, I’ve got a few resources in my store that you will love. Just tap the button below to browse!

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). All of the products I link to are things we have personally used and loved!

About the author

Casey is an early years teacher turned stay at home mum to three little learners aged 6 and under. She is passionate about supporting parents that want to use play as a vehicle to bond with their little learners and create magical memories of childhood! You can follow Casey on Instagram right here.


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