Find more play dough and fine motor ideas on the Fine Motor Skills Resource Page
What to Keep in the Play Dough Area:
Hand brooms (for cleaning up crumbs)
Ice Cream Parlor
Add ice cream bowls, spoons, and ice cream scoops to the play dough area. Fold thick brown paper or posterboard into cone shapes. I have a cute set of ice cream bowls with spoons that came from the Dollar Tree. I see them there every year.
Mr. Play Dough Head
Children use Mr. Potato Head parts with the play dough to make play dough people.
Mix wiggle eyes into the play dough for children to find.
Add wooden craft sticks to the play dough for children to construct houses and other buildings.
Play Dough Impressions
Add buttons, Barbie shoes, shells, toy animals, coins, and other small objects for the children to press into the play dough and make a variety of impressions. Children use the Barbie shoes to make footprints in the play dough. They can also use them as shoes for play dough people.
Children flatten out the play dough and roll toy cars and trucks on it to make tire tracks.
Provide brown play dough with pet food bowls and a bone cookie cutter. Children can roll the play dough into little balls for pet food. You could also add toy dogs and cats.
Children make planets or the moon with play dough. Add small plastic astronaut figures and rocks for asteroids that children can crash into the moon. (The picture below shows white Model Magic painted gray, but the same could be done with regular play dough.)
Place Easter grass in the bug boxes. Children make model bugs and put them in the boxes.
Make an outline of each of your cookie cutter shapes on construction paper and cover with clear contact paper or laminate. The way I did this was to dip each cookie cutter into a stamp pad, and stamp it on white construction paper. Children use the cookie cutters to cut out play dough shapes and match them to the shapes on the mat.
Play Dough Sizes
In stores that sell bakery supplies, you can find cookie cutters than come nested with graduating sizes. I have a set of different sized bear cutters as well as pumpkins, stars, and hearts. Children can use the graduated cutters to cut out play dough shapes and then put them in order by size.
Write numbers on paper circles and attach them to a cookie sheet with clear contact paper. Children make cookies with play dough, count out the correct amount of chocolate chips (brown beads), and place them on a number on the cookie sheet.
Show children how to roll the play dough to form snakes. Have them form snakes of different lengths to learn the vocabulary: long and short.
Add plastic or clay flower pots and a variety of silk flowers. Children fill the pots with play dough and stick the flowers into the dough. You can let them free play with them or write numbers on the pots and have children count the correct amount of flowers to put in the pot.
Add berry colored play dough, green plastic berry baskets, and a melon scoop. Children make berries by rolling the play dough or scooping the play dough with the melon scoop and place them in the berry baskets. You can attach numbers to the baskets for counting.
Provide lots of sizes and shapes of containers for the children to fill with play dough and experience volume.
Use clay instead of play dough for this activity. Have children form the clay into boats and float them in a tub of water.
Dino Fossils #1
Provide small toy dinosaurs for the children to press in the play dough to make fossils. (The fossil pictured was actually made with natural clay, but the same can be done with play dough.)
Dino Fossils #2
These dinosaur fossils can be made by flattening out the play dough and using different shapes of pasta to create a dinosaur skeleton.
Provide leaf cookie cutters for children to cut out leaf shapes, or provide real leaves for children to make impressions.
Place small toy animals in the center for the children to make tracks. You could use any color play dough, or white play dough to make tracks in snow.
Add seashells to the center for children to press into the play dough to make prints.
Provide orange play dough and green pipe cleaners for children to make mini pumpkin models.
Place white play dough in the center and add small beads, buttons, pegs, etc. for making snowmen.
Add plastic Easter eggs of different sizes to the play dough area. The kids just enjoy filling the eggs with play dough or making play dough baskets for the eggs.
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