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Homemade Play Dough~dozens of recipes, dozens of uses!

homemade play dough closeup of pink play dough
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Homemade Play Dough is such a great thing! It’s so fun and easy to make. Dough is a fabulous sensory and OT activity. Here are dozens of recipes for homemade playdough and dozens of ways to use it.

Making your own dough adds more steps in the process and you can teach your child more skills (measuring, mixing, stirring, reading and following directions, sequences). This is an activity before the activity, kwim? Of course what you plan to do will depend on the child’s skill level, so use your best judgment. I have listed 10 playdough recipes to make your own plus 10 ways to use playdough to make it therapeutic and educational for kids of all ages.

homemade play dough
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therapeutic and educational uses for playdough

  1. Hand Strength– Working and manipulating playdough in your hands is a great way to increase hand strength. You can even have them work on arm strength if the dough is particularly tough to work with, such as rolling it with a rolling pin, which takes more than the hands.
  2. Sensory-Different recipes of playdough will feel differently in a child’s hands. And, of course they will have different smells. You can even add essential oils to some of them to change the smell.
  3. Redirection-Have a child exhibiting unwanted behavior? Get out some playdough and redirect them. They can bang out their frustrations on a lump of playdough instead of their classmate. It can get them out of a rut of destructive or negative thinking if they enjoy working with the playdough.
  4. Language and Literacy-Talk about what they are making. Talk about colors, scents. Make letters and numbers out of the playdough, or flatten out a sheet of playdough and carve the letters with a pencil or popsicle stick.
  5. Story telling and Sequencing-The child can either build a scene/set out of the playdough and tell you about it, or give them sequential steps of a task you want them to complete. Don’t be afraid to introduce other things into the playdough such as little army guys or other plastic figures, to help with stories and sequencing. You can also use sequencing if they are helping you follow the directions or recipe to make the playdough, or if you are doing a multi-step activity such as first making the playdough, then a creation, then drying and decorating that creation.
  6. Fine and Gross Motor– Building, rolling, shaping, making…depending on the complexity of the task, a child can hone in on both fine and gross motor skills. You can add all sorts of things to your playdough-small plastic figures, rocks/stones, beads, buttons, punch holes in your creation and add a ribbon to hang…so much can be tied in to using playdough.
  7. Bilateral Coordination-Many kids struggle to use both hands at the same time to complete a task. Think of holding a steak steady on your plate with a fork in one hand, and slicing it with a knife in the other. That is a set of coordination skills that many take for granted. This is a task that can be practiced repeatedly using playdough.
  8. Imaginary Play-  So many kids on the spectrum struggle with this. Playdough can be a great way to create “pretend” things and talk about them. Make fake money or fake food with your playdough and act out scenarios.
  9. Creativity– We also all know of that one kid on the spectrum with rigid thinking and no creativity–the one who can build the most complex Lego creation following the directions, but hand them a bucket of Legos without directions and they can’t build a thing. Hand them a few lumps of playdough and encourage conversation and creativity. No blueprints except those that exist in the mind. You can also choose a recipe that you know will harden if you leave it out, and then consider painting it when it dries. Get small stones, beads, sequins, buttons or other kids of embellishments to put on the creation before it dries. The possibilities are endless and children may need just a few prompts to get them going.
  10. Social Skills– Do this as a small group. Set ground rules such as no judging, no criticizing, no “that’s stupid, why did you make that?” Have the kids each make something and then they have to tell the others about it. Have them work in pairs to collaboratively come up with something.


 And of course, it’s always fun and fine to just play with it! Sometimes us grownups forget that.

10 recipes to make play dough

  1. Candy Play Dough (Kids Activity Blog)
  2. Crayon Play Dough (Sugar Aunts)
  3. Glowing Play Dough (Tinker Lab)
  4. Jello Play Dough (Modern Parents Messy Kids)
  5. Baking Soda (Frugal Farm Wife)
  6. Melting Dough (Growing A Jeweled Rose)
  7. Play Dough recipe (Growing A Jeweled Rose)
  8. Lemon Play Dough (Learn Play Imagine)
  9. Cotton Candy Play Dough (Mama Miss)
  10. Home made play dough-options on Pinterest

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homemade play dough closeup of pink play dough
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