Play Dough for practicing hand skills

Play Dough for practicing hand skills

Play dough.

Homemade, purchased, scented, unscented, fluffy, sparkly, dry… it doesn't matter. It's a fact: Children LOVE play dough (parents and teachers not so much)! For children, it may be the creative nature of it or the sensory input it provides, or just the fun of making a mess. Whatever the reason, it can also be a motivating method to address hand skills. After the initial squeezing and squashing, many children actually do not know what to do or make with dough and are happy to take some direction.

Listed below is a recipe to make your own play dough. It does require some stovetop cooking but is worth the extra effort. You know what is in it. No chemicals that you can not pronounce and allergy friendly (so no worries if a piece "just happens" to get tasted!). This specific recipe usually does not encourage tasting because it is salty and has no added aroma.

Cara's Favorite Play Dough Recipe
(Makes enough for a small group of players)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 4 Tbsp oil
  • 4 Tbsp cream of tartar (can usually be found in baking aisle at stores)
  • 2 cups water with food coloring added (experiment with amount of coloring added - remember it is being incorporated into white flour and salt, so it has a tendency to come out a pastel color).
Mix all ingredients in a pot. Stir and cook over medium heat until the consistency of thick mashed potatoes. Knead. Play. Store in airtight container.
* Thank you Pinterest friends.
Play ideas: (Sequence several together to create a play routine)
  • Use a 3" size ball to create a "smasher stamper cleaner tool". Form the dough into a wide, short roll. Then stand it up and flatten just the bottom. You hold the tool by the upright (arm is in neutral or thumbs up position) lift and push the flattened bottom down over a smaller piece of dough. It should smush and stick to the smaller piece. A fun clean up tool.
  • Create smaller balls by rolling with two hands, then with tabletop and 1 hand. Can they do a circular motion without flattening the ball?
  • Create 2 balls at once using both hands.
  • After at least 10 balls are made, squish using opposition with each finger. Now place these doughnut-like balls between two extended fingers and squeeze sideways/adduction. Then use the stamper tool to clean up.
  • Who can make the longest or thinnest snake?
  • Use a peg or other tool to gently press in and create the appearance of snakeskin. Add little pieces for eyes, tongue and other features.
  • Make a coil pot.
  • Use cookie cutters and other tools to create shapes and impressions. Pinch, squeeze and manipulate dough after using cutters to create interest and texture.
  • Create an octopus with a round body. Add 8 legs each with a different texture or pattern.
  • Let's make "cookies". Form into a large cookie shapes. Then decorate with pegs, bingo chips or smaller pieces.
  • Make other familiar "foods" preferably with toppings. Pizza, hot dog and roll, banana splits, cracker jacks…
  • Practice cutting with a knife, scissors or teach to cut with side of fork.
  • Draw letters, numbers or simple pictures (house, kite, etc.) on paper then place under a firm plastic file folder or similar object. Outline using a long snake.
  • Practice braiding or twisting like a candy cane.
  • Explore YouTube videos for "bread dough sculpting". This ancient art form has enjoyed a resurgence of late. Older objects can be seen at the Smithsonian Museum.
Time Saving Products:
- Don't have time to make putty? Try our scented playclay.
- Need more classroom integration? Try our Alphabet stampers.
- Want more resistance? Try our 3 levels of therapy putty kit.
- Prefer quick, easy, no mess? Try our Putty Buddy friend.
- Just for fun and hand strength? Try our clay press.
scented playclay
putty buddy
clay press
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