The power of play-dough with Team ABC

Posted 30th March, 2020
Play-dough time at ABC

The thought of play-dough at home may be a little daunting. But what better time to overcome the fear of mess. Life has slowed down for a while and there will be plenty of time to clear up together.  

It is also a time to realise that the majority of children’s learning comes from everyday tasks. It is not just the playing with play-dough that is extremely beneficial to children, but all of the experiences that go with it. 

Finding ingredients, naming and finding the equipment needed, clearing a space, following instructions, washing up afterwards, sweeping the floors, working together and so on.  

But, rest assured, these tasks will happen all day every day, with or without the play-dough experience. So, involve your child and talk to your child, this is what they gain the most from. 

ABC children will no doubt be very familiar with play-dough and I am sure most Pre-schoolers, if not Toddlers will be able to tell you the ingredients needed and be experienced in the whole process. 

You will need:


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • Table spoon of oil


Mix all of this together to create a soft dough. Sprinkle the surface with flour and away you go. Shop bought dough will be just as great.  

We always make our own at our nursery settings at Hoo, Lightmoor, Hollinswood and Hadley, due to the benefits in the processes needed, it enables us to make the quantity required and we can add colours, scents etc.

Your homemade dough can be stored in an airtight container or in cling film in the fridge and will last weeks.  

There is a good reason for play-dough being one of our nursery staples for all children!  

  • It without doubt covers every area of development at every level a child may be working at. 
  • It is a fantastic sensory experience. It can be calming, therapeutic and can also allow children to squash and squeeze out any stress, anger or frustration.
  • Play-dough allows opportunities for children to practice fundamental skills they will need throughout life. From the handling of tools, to kneading the dough, to rolling and manipulating it into shapes. All of these skills work the essential muscles children need before they can hold a pencil correctly to begin drawing and writing.
  • Following recipes, negotiating ideas and all of the wonderful conversations that will follow whilst creating play-dough masterpieces with your child are just what they need to support language, listening and communication.
  • Mathematical concepts will naturally be used as you recognise the numbers of cups needed of ingredients, discuss if the cup is full or empty. 
  • Then as you play, sharing out the dough, who has more, who can roll the longest snake, the list is endless. 

But our favourite benefit of using play-dough is the way it allows children’s creativity and imagination to come alive.  

There is no set purpose of play-dough.  It can be used and extended in any way you wish.  Plain dough is fab, and will entertain your child for long periods, but here are just a few ideas we use to extend our play-dough stations at nursery;

  • Add colours using food colouring, paint or natural dyes.
  • Add scents, such as oils, dried herbs, spices, flavouring, hot chocolate powder, coffee.
  • Kitchen roll play. Add a cookbook, rolling pins, cookie cutters, knives, forks, baking trays, cake cases, candles, sprinkles, plates, bowls, 
  • Printing.  Use forks, shells, pinecones, bottle tops, hand prints, cocktails sticks, dolls feet, toy figures, leaves, buttons, straws, chopsticks. 
  • Create art.  Add anything you can find from around the house or garden, children can use the dough as a base to create models or artwork on.  For example, play-dough faces, with spaghetti hair, pebbles for eyes, a button nose and a twig as a mouth. 

The skills your child gains from playing with dough really are amazing. Younger children may use potato mashers to squash it. Older children may create patterns and mix colours. It gives every child the freedom and opportunity to succeed. 

See past the mess, face a fear, but ultimately enjoy the time together.  It is not about if the perfect dough can be achieved. Any child attempting this will use every area of learning, even if the end product is a big bowl of gloopy slop.  To them this could be perfect, and all the same learning processes will have taken place. 

It is about the time spent together, enjoy the magic, awe and wonder and we promise all of the amazing hidden learning will just take place.

Have fun, we look forward to seeing pictures on Iconnect if you are brave enough to have a go. Let your child take the lead, they will surprise you 😊 

Team ABC – cupcake anyone?!