From scented to seasonal and everything in between, the latest and greatest play dough recipes are taking Pinterest by storm and blowing up on kids activity blogs all over the internet. At The Inspired Treehouse, we know that playing with play dough is more than just fun…it’s one of the most beneficial activities for kids when it comes to fine motor skill development! We use play dough during our pediatric occupational therapy sessions to promote nearly every aspect of fine motor functioning with an added sensory bonus!
So you’ve found an awesome new play dough recipe, you’ve created a perfect batch of the smooth, squishy stuff…now what? Free play with play dough is a must – it’s so fun to see what kids will come up with on their own. But working in some of the following play dough activities for children can help specifically target strength, coordination, and manipulation skills.
1 – Make pancakes! This is a simple way to provide great proprioceptive input and can be expanded into a visual motor activity too! Have kids roll their play dough into a ball and then use both hands to push it flat to make the pancake. For added input to the hands and arms, have them stand up, pushing all of their weight into their hands to get their pancake as flat as they can. Once they have a few pancakes, give them a spatula and see if they can play chef, flipping the pancakes from one side to another one by one!
2 – Make a pizza! Start by making a large pancake (see above). This will be your pizza crust. Tell the kids they will need to make the toppings for their pizza! First, have them roll small bits of play dough into short, thin pieces using their Super Fingers. This will be the shredded cheese, so they’ll need a little handful of them to cover the pizza. Next. have them roll the play dough into several small balls, again using their Super Fingers. They’ll gently press the balls into small circles to make the pepperoni! Have them load up their pizzas, creating their own ideas for toppings too! Rolling small balls or small, thin “snakes” like this is a great way to work on dynamic, coordinated movements of the thumb, first finger, and second finger – the exact kind of movement needed for coloring and handwriting!
3 – Make spaghetti! First, have kids roll out long noodles. This is great for practicing controlled, movements of the fingers and hands – push too hard and they’ll flatten the noodle! Then, similar to making the pepperoni (above), roll small balls of play dough for meatballs!
4 - Make a cake! Make a pancake (above) and then let your little ones get creative! Push beads into the dough for sprinkles. Stick in some toothpicks for candles!
5 – An apple a day… Draw a picture of a tree on a piece of construction paper and have kids roll red play dough into small balls to place on the tree as apples! Try this with our Apple Orchard Gross Motor Activity!
6 – Roll a snowball Make three “snowballs” out of play dough, using both hands to roll the dough. Stack them up to make a snowman! Add beads for eyes, nose, a mouth, and buttons! Stick a couple of toothpicks in for arms! Try this with our Wintertime Yoga for Kids or Snowball Bowling!
7 – Pinching practice This activity is a great strengthener for those Super Fingers! Roll a long snake shape out of the play dough and stick it down on the table. Have pinch the dough using their Super Fingers, starting at one end and working their way down to the other end until the snake is flattened.
8 – Squeeze and pass This is a simple one, but great for whole hand strengthening. Simply have kids squeeze a ball of play dough in one hand as hard as they can and then pass to the other hand to do the same on the other side. Try it to the beat of a favorite song, you could even try this fun Baby Bumblebee Activity using play dough instead of a balloon!
9 – Snipping Practice! One of the best ways to keep kids’ interest in learning scissor skills is by practicing on play dough! Roll out a long piece of dough and have kids snip it into little pieces. Make a pancake and see if kids can cut it in half. The heavy resistance provides great proprioceptive feedback and an awesome opportunity for strengthening little hands!
Other Creative Play Dough Activities for Kids:
Play Dough Birds from Craftulate
Play Dough Pasta Matching Game from Kids Activities Blog
Play Dough Mandalas from Nurture Store
Great Play Dough Recipes From Around the Web:
Jello Play Dough from Modern Parents Messy Kids
Glitter Rainbow Play Dough from Housing a Forest
Orange and Lemon Play Dough from Imagination Tree
Natural Play Dough from Faithful to Nature