Skip to Content

Join The KinderArt Club, for Premium Art Lesson Plans.

Tips for Working with Play Dough

Tips for Working with Play Dough
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tips for working with play dough and a play dough recipe too!

By Julie Duell [Julie is a retired art teacher and grandmother from Erina, NSW Australia

The focus is on sharing the experience with the child, working together with enthusiasm and a sense of fun.
I have found that repeating this exercise each week has resulted in shape recognition, counting, order, hand dexterity and creativity in my 2 year old grandson, Kyan.

What You Need:

  • play dough (recipe below)
  • small rolling pin
  • plastic cutters – circle, square, triangle & star (don’t confuse things by adding more at first).
  • plastic knife – round ended
  • plastic mat to work on
  • small muffin tray
  • garlic press


  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup water
  • food coloring (add drops until the desired color is reached)
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Combine above ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat.

Make sure you stir the mixture constantly – or it will stick to the bottom of the pan.

When the mixture starts to stick together in a nice ball, remove the pan from the stove.

Set the pan aside until the dough is cool enough to touch.

When cool, knead the dough on a floured or waxed-paper-lined board.

Store dough in small containers with lids. (Yogurt containers work well).


Just play with it and watch your child. Maybe they just want to pinch bit off and pile it up into a “castle”. It’s a good start. When you feel they are ready for more… try some of the following:

ROLLING – Roll the dough out flat together. Take turns.

Rolling the play dough.

CUTTING WITH COOKIE CUTTERS – Use the cutters to cut out and remove the shapes. Try to let the child push them through, and don’t worry if they get a bit mangled! Name the shapes often. Children love choices so always let them choose which one next! To start with they might just point and later say the names of the shapes.

Cutting the play dough with cookie cutters.

COUNTING – Point to where the shapes should go in the muffin tin – always encourage the child to place them top to bottom, left to right – so that they become used to this method for later reading. Keep counting each time one is added.

Counting the play dough.

SAUSAGES – Show the child how to roll out a sausage using both hands. If they need help, ask them first – don’t just take over.

Making sausages with the play dough.

CUTTING WITH A KNIFE – Show how to cut up the sausage into segments. Do it together if the child cannot produce enough pressure. Get them to hold the knife well down the handle and put the forefinger along the top of the blade. You can then put your hand over theirs to help if needed.

Cutting the play dough.

BALL – Show how to roll a ball in the palms of your hands. Make one each and roll them to each other.

Making balls with the play dough.

CREATE – Make up a doll using the basic shapes, adding “hair” pushed through the garlic press. Press eyes in with a pen lid. Then use your imagination to encourage other things – always on the watch for ideas coming from the child. A train with carriages is a good one you can build together. Don’t re-adjust if they put the wheels on in funny places – it is more important to build their confidence than produce masterpieces!

Creating with the play dough. Use a garlic press to make play dough hair.

Play Dough Recipe – CLICK HERE


    Join Our Club

    You are currently on the site which features lots of free art activity ideas for kids (I hope you are enjoying them!) HOWEVER, if you are looking for more detailed art lesson plans, drawing lessons, printables, sketchbook starters (and more) provided monthly, you will LOVE The KinderArt Club - a membership portal designed for parents, homeschoolers, classroom art teachers and studio instructors.

    Inside the club you will find hundreds of printable PDF art lessons designed to work in small or large group settings, with a range of ages (from 5 to 12 years).

    Get creative teaching kids at home, instructing students in a classroom, leading workshops in a studio, or sharing online, as you explore artists, art periods, science, nature, history, cultures and themes, with creativity and flexibility in mind.

    Join us today at: