Top 10 Tot-Pleasing Play Dough Activities

playdough!Break out the play dough! That rolling, poking and pounding can teach shapes and measurement, improve fine motor skills and encourage pretend play. But there's more! While creating critters and ropes, your child builds brain cells and connections. For some mind-molding fun, try these activities:

#1 Pound it. Play dough combines a creative outlet and a motor activity rolled into one. An unexpected result: A little time with play dough can morph your upset toddler into a model one.

#2 Roll and cut. Cutting floppy paper can frustrate preschoolers. Roll out a 1/2" thick play dough sheet, pass out the child-safe scissors, and watch your child become a super snipper.

#3 Coil it. Make a long dough "snake" by rolling a lump of play dough back and forth on a flat surface. Coils become letters, outlines, caterpillar legs, log cabins, animal pens and anything else your child imagines.

#4 Make an impression. Roll out a handful of play dough. When the dough is smooth and flat, Your child can press objects with different shapes and textures (fork, buttons, dried pasta, seashells) into the smooth dough and create a pattern. Poke a hole in the dough near the edge, then allow it to dry. Tie a ribbon through the hole and hang it up. Need a project for tomorrow? Paint it!

#5 Squeeze it. The most popular use for the dough, besides eating, is extruding. Many toys let you press the dough through a mold to create long ropes and other shapes. Factoid: if you pressed all the Play-doh™ manufactured since 1956 through a fun factory, the rope would stretch from the earth to the moon 10 times!

#6 Add play dough to your on-the-go preschooler's activity center. Pounding and rolling Play doh and clay provides an outlet for that amazing pool of energy! A drop-cloth under the table and inexpensive plastic place mats protect work surfaces.

To get starting collecting items for your play dough activity center try the items on this list:

  • rolling pin
  • old cookie cutters
  • butter knives
  • popsicle sticks

#7 Theme it! Suggest a theme and provide a couple props. Perhaps today is "zoo day." Add prop ideas such as popsicle sticks, rocks, trees and animal cutters.

#8 Make cookies. Put out a cookie sheet and encourage your child to make and decorate their own pretend cookies. Punch a hole for a string near one edge and allow to dry. Paint or glue on decorations for a one-of-a-kind gift from your toddler! Remind them they aren't really for eating, only make-pretend. Most play dough (especially if homemade), should be non-toxic.

#9 Fill a container. Provide a large lump of dough and lots of sizes and shapes of containers. What a great opportunity for your child to learn about volume! Or encourage your mini-detective to search through the play dough for a hidden toy. That little shape might hold more than expected.

#10 Use a play dough mat. Draw or print out a simple shape like bug, crown or butterfly. Laminate the page and hand it over to the interior decoration team! The material? Play dough! Cut spots for that bug, form jewels on the crown and roll out ropes for the butterfly's antenna.

Helpful BIG Tip: Is your play dough getting dry and crumbly? Mix about a 1/4 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon water into the dough and close it up. It will be sticky right after you mix it but but within a few hours turns soft and pliable again.

Here's some more play dough ideas you and your child might enjoy:
Kid's Activity: Play Dough
Play Dough for the Very Young

What do you like to make? What's in your Top 10 list? What would you add here? Tell us in the comments!

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