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Great Play Dough Ideas for Every Age

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Great Play Dough Ideas for Every Age

Think play dough is just for pre-schoolers?

I am always amazed at how much time older children and even adults will spend happily squidging and modelling if they get their hands on it. 

I have used play dough to divert teenagers at youth groups, as an ice-breaker at grown-up parties and as a medium for imaginative play and learning.

Play dough is cheap, easy and fast to make and extremely versatile.

So throw together some play dough (there is a recipe at the bottom of this blog) and read on to discover some fun activities to share with your family these holidays ...

Play Dough Activities for Toddlers

Very young children have a tendency to put things in their mouths - it's one of the ways they learn - so it's best not to let them at the play dough until they are past this stage. However, there are some safe edible play dough recipes you could try at

Toddlers do not generally have the strength in their hands or fine motor skills to do much play dough modelling, rolling or cutting.  At this age, it's all about feeling and exploring.

They can squeeze and poke and build with dough and explore how other objects impact the dough.

  • Try running toy cars and trucks into flattened play dough to make tracks.
  • Make patterns in dough with fingers, plastic forks and doll feet.
  • Mould a play dough skirt over plastic doll or shape a mermaid tail.
  • Make play dough lollipops.
  • Stick buttons, paddle pop sticks, straws and feathers into dough to make 'monsters'.
  • Roll little dough balls and let your young child enjoy squashing them.

Play dough monsters Lollipops

Pre-Schoolers & Early Learners

Developing fine motor skills

Play dough is a great medium for developing fine motor skills by:

  • cutting - using plastic scissors and knives and cookie cutters
  • rolling, shaping and kneading

Manipulating play dough helps strengthen young children's hand muscles, which will help with drawing and writing skills later on.

Practice character and number recognition by forming letters, digits and even words from play dough.  Play dough letters



Modelling Ideas

If you have a large amount of different coloured dough, you can create landscapes and city scapes for use in creative play.  Build an underwater world for mermaids and sea creatures, roads for toy cars, dirt tracks for monster trucks or fantasy mountains and caves for dragons and dinosaurs.

Play dough landscape

Use the tiniest drop of pink or red food colouring when making play dough to create flesh-coloured dough - ideal for modelling faces and body parts.

Funny faceBody parts

Festive Fun

Festive dough creationsChristmas tree

Throw a bit of glitter into your dough mix and have fun making some Christmassy objects with the kids during the holidays.  For the Christmas tree above, make a green dough cone and use scissors to snip 'branches'.

We sometimes leave out a 'festive modelling table' as a side attraction at our Christmas parties, with white, green, red and gingerbread play dough.

Left-over Dough

Got scraps of left-over dough or a huge ball of muddy, mixed-up colours?  Don't throw it away.   There's still plenty of fun to have with it.

Use as modelling putty

Use blobs of play dough to join toothpicks or other objects for construction work.  The dough will set hard when left out and make structures strong and rigid.

Modelling putty

Make volcanoes

Use old play dough to shape a volcano around a small plastic cup filled with a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda and a few drops of red food colouring. Then pour some vinegar into the volcano and watch it erupt!


Design a box of chocolates

Fill an empty chocolate box with your delicious-looking creations - an ideal way of using up left-over scraps of dough. This is a particularly good activity for children of different ages to enjoy doing together.

Box of play dough chocolates

Smelly Dough

Add some drops of essence to make play dough that smells as good as it looks. (Just keep it away from small children who may be extra-tempted to taste it!)

  • Oranges and lemonsOranges and lemons - add a couple of drops of orange or lemon essence to your dough mixture
  • Peppermint - add peppermint essence
  • Chocolate - substitute some of the flour in your play dough recipe for cocoa powder (which will also colour your dough a rich chocolate brown.  Additionally, you could add a drop of chocolate essence (available from some supermarkets)
  • Chocolate mint - use peppermint essence AND chocolate essence/cocoa
  • Gingerbread - substitute some of the flour in your play dough mix with ground ginger, cinnamon and all spice (which will also colour the dough effectively) 


Find the Bead

A great game for younger kids if you have a large lump of play dough.  Hide a small bead or coin somewhere in a flattened area of dough and challenge the kids to excavate with teaspoons to be the first to find the hidden trinket.



rapidough.jpgThis is a hilarious commercial game, along the lines of 'Pictionary' but using modelling dough instead of pen and paper. Teams race each other, rather than a timer, to model a given word.  After each round, the losing teams must remove a defined amount of dough, putting them at a disadvantage in subsequent rounds ... try modelling the word 'dairy' with a pea-sized nugget of dough!

But there's no need to buy the game if you're resourceful enough and have the time to write some cards of your own.  This could be adapted for younger children using simpler words and/or pictures if you wanted to create your own version of the game.


Play Dough PresentsPlaydough Presents

A couple of jars of homemade play dough can make a great gift - and not just for kids; as a 'Get Well Soon' present, play dough can be much more therapeutic and diverting than flowers or the ubiquitous colouring books.

Include a few cutters/utensils and a printed play dough recipe or personalise with some modelleing challenges for the recipient.


A quick search on Google will bring up dozens of different play dough recipes.  The one below is my tried and tested favourite and takes about 5-10 minutes to throw together from start to finish.  It yields enough dough for about four children (about the size of three adult fists).  It can be made without 'cooking' on the stove at all (just use the boiling water) but I find the heat produceds a smoother, less grainy, consistency.


2 cups of plain flour
2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
1 cup of salt
1/8 cup of oil
2 cups of boiling water
few drops of food colouring


  1. Put all ingredients into large saucepan and place on low heat. 
  2. Stir with wooden spoon.
  3. Leave to cool enough to handle
  4. Knead with hands until dough is an even consistency and colour.


Add glitter or essences for sparkle and scent.


What play dough activities does your family enjoy?  Share your ideas in our comments section below.


Click to discover the 30 skills your child needs before starting Prep 

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Topics: High School, School Holidays, Primary School, Preschool, Prep, Toddlers, Craft

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