For busy parents, play dough is like marmite… we either love it or hate it! Kids however unequivocally LOVE it and it has been one of the nation’s favourite educational toys since the 1950s. 

So firstly, how does it support your child’s early years development? 

  1. It supports the development of fine motor skills: when moulding play dough into different shapes, children and toddlers are strengthening the small muscles in their hands. Your child will need to build these muscles before they learn to write. 
  2. It supports the development of hand-eye coordination: children use their hands to shape the dough to fit their ideas.
  3. It supports Communication & Language, and Maths learning: Children can learn about descriptions, counting and shapes (and much more!) 
  4. It supports the development of creativity:  by starting from new, children learn to think in original and innovative ways

…. playing with play dough also helps children release excess energy, develop their focus and relieves tension

Now I’ve convinced you that it’s a ‘toy’ your child would REALLY benefit from, I can hear you asking “Where do I buy it from?” 

My answer: “Make it” 

Below I have listed some of my favourite quick and easy play dough recipes (and salt dough recipe) that you can make with your child. I always involve my son when we’re making play dough – it provides the opportunity to practice so many fine motor and gross motor skills, such as stirring, patting and rolling.  

Keep scrolling down to find out how to set playdough up for engaging play and a fantastic play dough game for kids aged 3 years old +

Homemade play dough recipes

Easy play dough recipe (without cream of tartar)


  • 2 cups flour (bread flour or self-raising flour)
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • A few drops of food colouring (optional)


  • Mix all the ingredients together to form a ‘dough’. If too sticky, add a small amount of flour/ if too dry, add a bit more water.
  • Put some flour onto your work surface and knead dough.

Your play dough can be kept in a zip lock bag or airtight container for up to a week

Baby-safe play dough recipe


  • 1 cup of Gluten Free Cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1 ½ cups of baby rice cereal
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 sachet of fruit puree
  • 1 tbsp water


  • Pour all dry ingredients, baby rice cereal and cornflour into a large bowl. Then add vegetable oil  and fruit puree. Combine well with an electric mixer.
  • If the mixture is sticky, slowly add more baby rice cereal and mix well with electric mixer completely before adding more. If the mixture is dry, slowly add small amounts of water and mix until the dough is smooth and malleable.
  • Put some flour onto your work surface and knead dough.
  • Store in a plastic, zip lock bag or airtight container in the fridge. When removed from the fridge, kneading with warm hands will soften the play dough again.
  • This play dough recipe does not include any preservative and will last several days in the refrigerator.

Salt free playdough recipe 


  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Herbs and spices (optional)


  • Mix all the ingredients together to form a ‘dough’. If too sticky, add a small amount of flour/ if too dry, add a bit more water.
  • Put some flour onto your work surface and knead dough.
  • To add an additional sensory dimension to your play dough, you can add a variety of herbs and spices. Rosemary, sage, bay leaves and mint all work really well; I often also add a few drops of green food colouring. 

Salt dough recipe (for baking)


  • 1 cup table salt
  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 1.5 cups water 


  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  • Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl using a wooden spoon. When it becomes too stiff to stir, use clean hands to bring the dough together. If too sticky, add a small amount of flour/ if too dry, add a bit more water
  • Put some flour onto your work surface and knead dough.
  • Divide dough into 2 or 4 sections and roll out to about 1/4-1/2 inch thick between two sheets of parchment paper.
  • Cut out with cookie cutters. Transfer shapes to a parchment-lined baking paper
  • Repeat rolling and cutting out shapes to use up the dough.
  • If making ornaments, bake for 90 minutes to 2 hours or until firm to the touch (neither rock hard or squishy). 
  • Remove from oven, let cool, and paint if desired with acrylic or tempera paint (washable).

How to set-up play dough for play

There are so many amazing ways play dough can be used in play; below I have suggested a few ideas and I will be adding lots more on this site, so do keep an eye out! Remember that when it comes to play, more is often less (the more we give children when setting up play, the less creative they are… keep it simple). 

  • Add scents to play dough
  • Print on playdough; find natural objects such as pinecones or food such as pasta
  • Add play dough to your child’s play kitchen or role play making birthday cupcakes, complete with cupcake cases and candles
  • Use playdough to support stories such as Rainbow fish, adding sequins to the dough
  • Use playdough to make aliens; offer a range of resources such as pipe cleaners and sequins for your child to choose from
  • Introduce mathematical concepts such as length, rolling dough into ‘worms’ and explore which ones are “long” and “short”
  • Use playdough to create structures, adding a ball of playdough onto each end of a stick (this is a great outdoor play activity). 

Dough Disco

‘Dough Disco’ is something I have implemented as a daily activity in the EYFS environments I have worked in. I have also advocated its benefits HUGELY to parents, as a preschool play activity that kids love and gain so much from. 

It involves moulding playdough in time to music and performing actions such a rolling and patting, strengthening all the small muscles in their hands. In Nursery and Reception classrooms, I have always done this for five minutes every day. 

What do you need?

  • Any song
  • A child’s fist sized ball of dough
  • A set of moves! I have shown these in the picture at the top of this blog post. These moves can be done in any order. 

This play activity is great fun and will give your child the skills they need to be writing ready when they get to school.

Happy playing from my home to yours!

Lucie x