Seven Simple Invitations to Play with Playdough

We love play dough in our house! There are so many ways of playing with it and it is really great for sensory play, developing fine motor skills, and promoting creativity.
T really enjoys playing with play dough so we often pull some out and keep it simple with our box of play dough tools such as cutters and rollers. It is great for keeping her occupied while I am cooking, and because she does it at the kitchen table we can chat whilst she plays!
However, it’s fun to mix things up a bit so I thought I’d compile a list of a few different ways you can prepare an invitation to play with play dough.

Monster Factory

Put out a range of loose parts for children to use with the dough to create monsters or aliens. This could include items such as pipe cleaners, lolly sticks, matchsticks, buttons, glass stones, ribbons, and googly eyes. We have also used the body parts from a Mr Potato Head! T had great fun making all kinds of different aliens last year when we did our Space-themed week! This sort of activity is fantastic for developing creativity and imagination, as children will often come up with little stories or ideas about why each creature looks a certain way.
Playdough monster - three eyes, pipe cleaner hair and the arms from a Mr Potato Head.

Shape Stamps

We used some of T’s wooden blocks to create impressions in the dough, This was a great activity for stimulating conversation about the shapes of the different impressions. Once children are three or four, they might be able to think more carefully about where they are stamping the blocks in order to create a shape picture in their dough. You can find more ideas for shape-themed play here.
Playdough with wooden blocks in background. Impressions have been left in the dough using the blocks.

Ice Cream Parlour

Last summer, T loved pretending to set up and ice cream shop and one day I decided to extend the play by using play dough to make pretend ice creams. We used different things we found around the garden as toppings, such as sticks (‘chocolate flakes’) and mint leaves (‘sprinkles’).
Playdough ice creams using loo roll cones and natural materials

Spice Up Your Life

Provide children with some plain, unscented dough and give them a variety of spices to add to the dough. We did this around Christmas time and so used cloves, ginger and cinnamon. This is a really lovely activity for providing some sensory play. Do beware of spices going in to their mouth – T tried eating the cinnamon powder which, as you can imagine, she did not enjoy at all! And of course, don’t use anything too spicy!
Image of child playing with plain dough, and three small pots with cinnamon, ginger and cloves.


Use the dough along with some dinosaurs to extend small world play. It is really fun for children to experiment with the impressions that the dinosaurs leave behind, using different parts of their bodies. The dough can also become an element of their landscape, such as a mud pool, swamp or hot lava! Extend the dino-play further with these other ideas.
Dinosaurs leaving footprints in some dough

Use natural materials

Collect some natural materials next time you are out and about and allow the children to play freely with them and the dough. It is amazing to see what they create! At different times of the year you will find different things which will all bring something to the play. You could use sticks, conkers, acorns, pinecones, blossom, flowers, herbs, stones – or anything* else you come across!
*Within reason. I’d probably avoid using the term ‘anything’ with the children. After all, we don’t want fox-poo scented dough, now, do we?
 Ball of playdough next to bowl of natural materials

Bake cakes

We picked up some silicone cupcake cases a while back and use them regularly for play dough. Add some other resources such as a muffin tin, some candles, and some loose parts to create decorations. If you’re feeling really adventurous, allow them some ‘flavourings’ to create a greater sensory experience! This could include cocoa; ground ginger; vanilla essence; or essential oils.
Playdough cupcakes arranged in silicone cupcake cases in a muffin tin. They have a variety of decorations.
We usually make our own play dough, and we almost always use this recipe. It takes less than five minutes, so it’s super quick and easy!
What are your children’s favourite ways to play with play dough?
Seven simple invitations to play with play dough

12 Replies to “Seven Simple Invitations to Play with Playdough”

  1. I love this list. I also loved playdough as a kid but my son just isn’t that in to it. We did the dinosaur’s foot prints last month and he loved it so going to give your others a go. Thanks. #littlemakes

    1. beccatooth says: Reply

      Yes, I loved it too – still do! Hope some of these ideas capture his interest 🙂

  2. If only my eldest liked play dough. Maybe one day she’ll be happy to play with it. #littlemakes

    1. beccatooth says: Reply

      It’s funny how some kids just don’t like particular things, isn’t it? T hates the sensation of glue on her fingers! If we do any sticking we usually have a cloth handy.

  3. Love these ideas! Playdoh is one of our go to indoor play toys and these are some great ways to use it a bit differently! Will definitely be trying some of these out! #MakeItLinky

    1. beccatooth says: Reply

      Thanks! Let me know how you get on!

  4. This is a fab list of ideas! We love playdough in our home too, although lately we haven’t used it as much and I love these ideas for getting started again. I love the baking cakes idea and the monster factory. Little M often finds his own things to put in the playdough, but sometimes I think it’s nice to provide an ‘invitation to play’ as you say, to prompt their imagination. We also like making playdough ‘surprise eggs’ where we roll the playdough into egg shapes with little toys hidden inside! Then of course open them all! x

    1. beccatooth says: Reply

      Fun, T loves hiding things inside the dough, but I don’t think I’ve ever started with something hidden for her to find. She’d love it! Although I hate when you get tiny bits of dough stuck to other toys! Not like it can’t wash off though.

  5. Brilliant ideas! Love these! Definitely will be trying some of these Out over half term. The monster factory is brilliant and I know my children will love the cake making. #littlemakes

    1. beccatooth says: Reply

      I hope your children enjoy it! Let me know how you get on!

  6. These are fantastic ideas! We love Playdough, but often run out of ideas! I am pinning this right now! Thank you! #MakeItLinky

    1. beccatooth says: Reply

      Thank you!

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