Kids in the Kitchen

Play Dough Power

Squishing, rolling, sculpting, moulding . . . young children love to play with play dough. Add some props from around the home and play dough play becomes a powerful way to support your child’s learning. This simple preschool staple lets children use their imaginations and strengthen the small muscles in their fingers—the same muscles they will one day use to hold a pencil and write. Using play dough with you, a friend, or siblings supports your child’s social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and enjoying being with other people. Play dough also encourages children’s language and literacy, science, and math skills—all at the same time!

Play dough can provide hours of fun and learning at home. Besides the play dough, all you need are a clear surface, a few household items, and lots of time for fun.

Around-the-House Play dough Props
  • Birthday candles
  • Blocks
  • Bottle caps
  • Cookie cutters
  • Combs
  • Garlic press (be prepared to give it up forever)
  • Large buttons and other objects that can be pressed into the play dough to make a design
  • Feathers
  • Leaves, twigs, pebbles
  • Plastic knives, forks, and spoons
  • Rolling pin or bottle
  • Small toy people and animals
  • Straws
  • String or shoelaces
  • Tea strainer
  • Toothpicks (only for older children)

What children learn

Play dough play at home or school supports development and learning in many areas. When children use play dough, they explore ideas and try different approaches until they find one that works. They compare and contrast objects (“Mine’s a fat pancake and yours is skinny”), actions (“No, don’t cut it! Scrape it, like this”), and experiences (“We’re not making a snake—we’re making a road”). In their experimenting, children come up with their own ideas, satisfy their curiosity, and analyse and solve problems.

With play dough, young children express their ideas through art and make-believe play. At the same time, they learnsymbolic thinking by pretending that the play dough is something else (“That thing with the antlers is a moose”).

As 3-year-old Anna plays, she makes and names her many creations:

Anna squeezes a piece of play dough and rolls it back and forth between her hands. “I made a worm!” she exclaims. Then she makes another long object and places it on top of the first one. “I made another worm—a bigger one!” Then Anna squishes some play dough together; there’s a turkey sandwich for you.” Next, she rolls a ball of dough around, pounds it down on the table, and sticks several plastic knives vertically into the pile. “Look, a birthday cake with candles!” Anna declares. She pokes the pile with a spoon, raises the spoon to her mouth, and pretends to eat. “Yummy!” she says.

As Anna makes her cake and eats it too, she engages in simple pretend play.

Older preschoolers—say, 4- or 5-year-olds—often make detailed play dough creations. With one or more friends, they may imagine themselves to be construction workers building a highway, prehistoric hunters pursuing a woolly mammoth, or pastry chefs baking and selling cookies, cupcakes, and donuts at a bakery. You can join in their pretend play too!

Play dough is a powerful learning tool for many reasons. And when you play with play dough at home with your children, you’ll discover the most important reason of all: it’s just plain fun!


  • Plain flour
  • Salt
  • Food colouring
  • Vegetable oil
  • water

Method for Uncooked Playdough

  1. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl

  2. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the oil

  3. Add a few drops of food colouring to 1/2 cup of water and mix to combine

  4. Add the coloured liquid a little at a time to the flour and oil

  5. Knead until the mixture is smooth and is the consistency of scone dough. If the mixture is too dry add more water, likewise if the mixture is too sticky add more flour

"There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million" – Walt Streightiff