Play Dough Tools that Support Learning

Using play dough tools in a classroom can be engaging for students, while providing many opportunities to learn as they play. But organizing and storing all the play dough and related tools can be challenging. Here are tips to help your class use play dough successfully.

Photo of a building made from playdough and toothpicks, and play dough with impressions from a fork and Lego bricks. Text says: Tips for Using Play Dough in the Classroom.

Using play dough tools helps develop fine motor skills as students push, pull and cut the play dough. Students also use their imagination and creativity as they play with the dough. Additionally, as they play with one another, they practice critical social skills, such as sharing and cooperation. Finally, students develop and understanding of cause and effect, watching what happens as they try different tools and tricks with the play dough.

How does play dough fit into the day?

You can use play dough in the classroom year round, in many different areas of your classroom. As part of a work-sheet free, soft start to the school day, your students can play with play dough in the morning when their morning tasks are finished.

You can also add play dough to several centers in your classroom:

  • dramatic play center (such as a bakery)
  • sensory table (add vehicles or special tools for fun
  • a separate play dough center

What can I include in my play dough center?

Photo of several colorful cookie cutters for play dough.

The possibilities for play dough tools are endless…

  • rolling pins (with and without textures)
  • cookie cutters
  • scissors
  • plastic silverware
  • plastic tools (screw drivers, plastic screws, hammers, etc.)
  • kitchen tools (garlic press, spatulas, potato masher)
  • toy cards (the larger plastic ones with textured wheels are fun)
  • things to press into the dough to make textures (Lego blocks, alphabet blocks, forks, buttons, beads, etc.)
  • commercially made stampers (there are some with letters or numbers)
  • commercially made play dough toy sets
  • toothpicks, popsicle sticks or wooden skewers
Photo of play dough with impressions from a fork and from Lego bricks.
Photo of a toy hammer pounding play dough.

How do I organize all the materials?

First, you be sure to store the play dough in zip bags or sealable containers, so it doesn’t dry out. (Homemade play dough lasts longer than the commercial variety.) Keep all the tools in a storage box or bin nearby.

Once you have a variety of play dough tools, you might set out just one type at a time – switching to a new variety every few weeks. Different tools will encourage different kinds of play and attract different students to the center. (Limiting the tools also makes clean up and organization easier for students to manage independently.)

To keep the play dough center “fresh” and engaging, you might also consider trying different kinds of homemade play dough every few weeks.

How else can I use play dough?

Play dough can be used to support STEAM education, too! Students can create fun designs using the play dough tools described above.

However, students can also use the play dough for engineering tasks. Add popsicle sticks, toothpicks, wooden skewers or plastic straws to the play dough center and encourage students to create buildings and towers.

Students can also create sculptures, recreate favorite scenes from stories, or create characters to act out their own stories and adventures. These creations can be shared with family using photo sharing apps, such as SeeSaw.

If you haven’t added playdough to your classroom, do it today! It will be fun for your little friends, and they can work on fine motor, reading and STEM skills as they play!

Photo of a simple building made from play dough and toothpicks with text that says "4 Tips for Using Play Dough in Your Classroom."
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