There are few toys as beloved as playdough. This simple toy opens the door to infinite creativity and heaps of fun for children of all ages.
Do you remember all the things you used to build with playdough and the hours spent playing pretend with the stuff you built?
I vividly remember that one of my favourite games involving playdough was “bakery”. I’d mould that plasticine into loaves of bread, buns, muffins, pies, rolls and everything else I could think about. Then I’d “sell” them to friends and family and help them cut the products up (I had a toy knife so part of the fun was cutting those pretend bakery products into pieces).
My friends and I used to meet and have playdough parties where each of us would bring whatever plasticine they had at home and we’d create all these wonderful things, each with his/her own skill and imagination or have veritable contests of who can make the best playdough replica of the chosen object.
Those were the days!
I have to confess that I am pleased to see that playdough’s popularity hasn’t diminished one bit since I was a child, on the contrary, with all the incredible accessories on the market nowadays, it has become more in demand than ever.
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A Brief History Lesson
It seems as if playdough has been around forever, right? But in reality, it has only been patented in 1956. Playdough has actually been created by accident by Noah McVicker who was working for Kutol products, the family’s soap company. He created a new wallpaper cleaner which looked like putty.
Little did he know that teachers found another use for his cleaner in the classroom. They realised that this product was excellent for arts and crafts and what is more, it didn’t contain any toxic chemicals.
Noah’s nephew, Joseph, learned about this when he joined the company years later and he immediately seized the opportunity. He rebranded the product, naming it Play-Doh and started marketing it to schools and stores.
Play-Doh was so successful that in 1956, the McVicker family started the Rainbow Crafts Company to make and sell Play-Doh. With clever marketing and a quality product, Play-Doh became wildly popular around the world.
The Benefits of Playdough
Aren’t we lucky for Mr Vicker’s discovery?! Besides the mountains of fun, playing with playdough has so many other benefits for our kids.
1. It improves fine motor skills and hand strength– all that squishing, squashing, flattening, modelling and poking will build strength in the small muscles of the fingers and hands. These muscles are vital for all the activities that require fine and controlled movements of the hands and fingers like writing, eating, getting dressed etc.
2. It supports creativity and imagination– what things can you make from playdough? Exactly! Anything! The only limit is your imagination. Kids can use plasticine to bring their thoughts to life in innovative ways.
3. Sensory play– playdough offers important sensory input. The tactile sense is probably the most stimulated here, however, the olfactory sense (some playdough can be pleasantly scented) is also used, and visual stimulation.
4. It helps with social skills– although kids can play with playdough on their own, it can also be a great group activity thus promoting interaction with others and social skills. Kids can collaborate to create various figurines, share the plasticine and accessories or have friendly competitions.
5. It promotes language development– playdough is a terrific material to promote the development of vocabulary and speech when describing each other’s creations or talking about them while building.
6. It has a calming effect– playing with plasticine can have a calming effect on kids, it can help ease tension and help with focus.
7. It supports literacy and math– playdough is an excellent tool to support teaching letters, numbers, simple spelling and mathematical operations in a fun and attractive way.
8. Playdough and loose parts– adding other elements to playdough opens the door to more creativity, other textures and shapes and brings in more challenges. Loose parts are things like sticks, shells, pebbles, twigs, buttons, beads, pom poms etc.
Now that we know all the wonderful benefits of playdough, I am sure that you are ready to get some colourful Play-Doh jars and start squishing. There are so many activities with playdough and amazing ideas out there that we have decided to collect the best ones in one place. In addition, we also bring you some free printable playdough mats to make your activities more interesting.
Activities with Playdough
1. HexBug mazes with playdough
A great combination between a classic toy (playdough) and a modern toy (Hexbug). Since kids love playdough and technology, this activity can’t go wrong. Not to mention that it is easy to set up as well.
2. Bug Playdough Kid Craft
Whether you are learning about nature and insects or your kid has developed an obsession with bugs, this activity will surely keep their focus.
3. Playdough Aliens
Talking about loose parts, you can use those googly eyes, pipe cleaners, buttons and whatever else you have around the house to create funny aliens.
4. Playdough Apples
A simple yet fun playdough activity which can easily be turned into a counting activity, games involving fine motor skills and more. Check out the article to see all the ideas.
5. Build a Turkey Playdough Kit
A brilliant activity with playdough for Thanksgiving or anytime you want some fun. Check out the article to see the materials needed and the instructions.
6. Playdough Fine Motor Skills Activity and Q-Tips
As we know, one of the benefits of playing with plasticine is improving the all-important fine motor skills. This simple activity will do just that and more. Kids will have the opportunity to learn colours, play a sorting game or simply create whatever their imagination tells them to with playdough and q-tips.
7. Fizzy Volcano with Playdough
This activity not only allows kids to build a volcano with playdough but also to do a cool scientific experiment. The erupting fizzy volcano will surely have a “wow” effect on your little one. Check out the article for step-by-step instructions.
8. Playdough Identification Game
Kids love playing detective and discovering exciting things. This playdough identification game can be quite versatile in the sense that you can use different toys/objects depending on the child’s interests or the object of the lesson.
9. Playdough Monsters Counting Activity
Get all those googly eyes out, some match sticks and any other craft accessories you may have lying around and create the funniest/scariest monsters. Besides being fun, this activity has also got a math component to it. Check out the link to see the instructions.
10. Playdough Flowers + Free Play Mat
Who doesn’t like flowers? This is a wonderful activity that teaches kids how flowers grow in addition to all the benefits of using playdough. Don’t forget to download the free printable playdough mat that goes along with the activity.
11. Spider Web Construction with Straws and Playdough
Spiders are fascinating creatures and so are their webs. Learn how to create webs using straws and playdough.
12. X-Ray Playdough
This is an ingenious way of teaching little ones about the human body using playdough and q-tips. Click the link to see the details of this great activity.
13. Playdough bird nests
Nature is full of amazing things and a place of great inspiration. Create the best bird nests using playdough and other natural materials like sticks, leaves, grass and so on.
14. Pasta Playdough
Get different types of pasta like fusilli, spaghetti, farfalle, penne etc and lots of playdough. This can be an unstructured activity where kids let their imagination loose or a more guided one where they build a face for example with the materials at hand.
15. All About Me Playdough Activity
It is so important for young kids to learn about themselves and their emotions. This playdough activity will teach children about body parts as well as offer the opportunity to discuss and learn emotions. You can download a free printable face outline.
16. Safari Playdough Footprints
This game is really quick to set up and great fun for kids. Give it a try!
17. Farm Playdough Activity
Kids love to pretend play so bringing together toy animals and playdough is a guaranteed success. Use different colour playdough to create a pig sty, a green pasture or a hen house.
18. Name Recognition with Playdough
Trying to teach your child how to spell their name? Here is an easy and fun activity with playdough and letters. This can also be used for spelling lessons.
19. How to Make Playdough Animals
A post with step-by-step instructions on how to make a penguin, a t-rex, a turtle, a snake and a butterfly.
20. Playdough Earth Activity
For this activity, kids will have to mould the playdough and make it fit within a certain outline. Using blue and green they will make planet Earth out of plasticine. Cool, right? There is also a free printable that goes with the activity.
21. Scissors Skills Practice with Playdough
Using scissors develops the small muscles in the hand which are so important for everyday activities. Here is an activity that combines scissor skills with playdough in a fun activity.
22. Letter Matching with Playdough in a Box
If you need a hands-on activity for letter recognition this is it! It is easy to set up and your little ones will have heaps of fun learning the alphabet.
Free Playdough Mats (print and play)
The internet is full of wonderful materials for kids and what is more, if you have the time to scour the web, you will find many of them for free. However, since this can take considerable time and effort, we bring you some of the best free printable materials that you can use with playdough. Enjoy! 🙂
1. I Can Make Numbers Playdough Mat– In The Playroom
2. 15 Free Playdough Emotions Activity– Rock Your Homeschool
3. Earth Day Playdough Mat– Little Bins For Little Hands
4. Christmas-themed Playdough Mats (learning numbers)– Ottawa Mommy Club
5. Fabulous Playdough Mats (in the kitchen)– Simply Full of Delight
6. Valentine’s Day Numbers Playdough Mats– ConserveaMom
7. Emotions Playdough Mats + list of feelings for kids- In The Playroom
8. Transportation Playdough Mats– Preschool Play and Learn
9. Space Playdough Mat– Nurture Store
10. Garden Playdough Mats– Pickle Bums
11. Pets Playdough Mats– Preschool Play & Learn
12. Dinosaur Playdough Mats– Fun-A-Day
13. Christmas Playdough Mats– The Printables Fairy
14. Weather Playdough Mats– Tot Schooling
15. Alphabet Playdough Mats– Fun Learning For Kids
16. Shape Playdough Mats– Fantastic Fun and Learning
17. Pumpkin Pie Mats– Making Mom Magic
18. Under the sea Playdough Mats– Fairy Poppins
19. Apple Tree Playdough Mats– Living Well Mom
20. Cake Playdough Mat– My Party Design
21. Zoo Playdough Mats– Homeschool Share
I confess that playdough is one of our go-to activities whenever there’s a hint of boredom or we don’t have anything else planned. I just open the jar where we store it and away we squish and squash, inventing games as we go along or doing one of the activities with playdough presented above. They are so easy to set up and most only require materials that can be found easily.
And when I want to add to the fun I simply print one of the free playdough mats and guaranteed I have a busy, happy child for a number of minutes.
We hope you’ll enjoy these activities with playdough and don’t forget to share them with other parents in search of boredom-killers 🙂
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Mom of two wonderful children, dedicated teacher and book lover.