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Hands-on activities are my favorite way to teach. There is just something about the manipulation that helps my mind learn and I have found the same to be true with my children. One of my go-to manipulatives is playdough. To celebrate National Play-Doh Day (annually on September 16th) try some of these educational playdough activities for ages 2 and up!
Get the dough!
The first thing you need is the dough! Playdough is relatively inexpensive and can be found at many stores for $1 or less per container. You can buy one color or grab a case of colors OR you can try your hand at making your own!
Honestly, I never had much success in making my own until a fellow teacher slipped me her favorite recipe years ago. Which I will now share with you! This is great to make for your younger kids or teach your older ones how to make it!
- 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup of salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup of water
- Food coloring (or acrylic paint if you have kids that won’t eat it!)
Ready for the easiest play dough ever? Okay, here we go.
- Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan. (See told ya easy!)
- Cook on med/low heat stirring constantly.
- Keep stirring the mixture until it thickens and collects around the spoon.
- Remove the dough and place it on a plate to cool. (It might be sticky and that is okay).
- Once cooled enough to touch, start to play and mix it thoroughly. Keep kneading it and working with it. It will get there.
Of course, this isn’t the only recipe out there. There are plenty of different and fun ones. Like jello playdough, edible cake batter playdough, marshmallow playdough, and many many more. So don’t be afraid to experiment around to find your favorite.
Now that you have your playdough, how do you make it educational?
Well, playdough alone is helpful for child development. The act of squeezing and just free playing with the dough is helping your child develop fine motor skills! The pulling and squeezing of the playdough helps your child’s hands gain strength and dexterity which is important for writing and more.
Early Education Activities
- Work on letter and number identification with playdough mats! I especially love the number mats because they help reinforce the tens frame early on.
- Practice making shapes! Use playdough to teach your young learners circles, squares, triangles and more. Have them copy shapes they see from around the house or make it a game of guess the shape that you take turn making.
- Explore addition with playdough and number bonds. Use playdough as your math manipulatives to show how numbers join to make other numbers.
- Try some hands-on practice mixing colors. This is a great way to let your child experiment without making a mess with paint!
- Help them practice making their name. You can also use stamps or wooden blocks for this too!
Elementary Age Activities
- Learn about the human body with playdough! Try these free mats to help your homeschoolers learn about bones, skeletal system, muscles, organs, and more!
- Work on multiplication skills. Multiplication in our house needed to hands-on for my children to grasp the concept. Playdough was a great way to do that. We really love this monster version too!
- Takes fractions to the next level with hands-on practice. Your homeschoolers might get that fractions are part of a whole but what does that look like? Play pizza parlor and order playdough pizzas but request it by fractions. I’d like 4/8ths, please!
- Learn about the layers of the Earth.
- Work on engineering skills with playdough and sticks.
Middle and Highschool Activities
- Give core sampling a try! A great way to learn about geology.
- Make a brain model and learn what parts of your brain helps you learn!
- Piece together a playdough cell!
- Use playdough to explore the parts of an atom.
- This one isn’t free but did you know you can even use playdough to help understand trigonometry?!
- Explore all different kinds of how-to sculpting ideas from the Play-Doh website. The how-to videos are fun to watch and your children will pick up some sculpting art skills along the way as well!
- Create your own playdough stress ball. Give your children something to manipulate when they need focus and be calm.
- Expand their creative thinking with our free playdough challenge cards (grab them below!) This is a great brain break after a tough day of learning or a fun boredom buster when needed! The best part is that this one is great for multiple ages/levels to do together!
Go and have some playdough fun and, as always, keep learning!
What’s your favorite playdough activity? Let me know in the comments below!