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.
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.
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.
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’).
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!
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.
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?
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.
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?