Playdough and Fine Motor Development

Children of every age are constantly learning and growing each day. As teachers, it is our job to help guide and lead your child the best we can. One of the skills that children need to learn are fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are all the movements made by the small muscles in the fingers, hands, wrists, toes, lips, and tongue. Picking up small objects between the thumb and forefinger, holding utensils, buttoning buttons, and grasping a pencil are all examples of using fine motor skills. Children are not born with these skills, and need to be introduced to activities that help develop this over time.

Here at the center, one of the ways we do this is by use of playdough. Playdough is a favorite activity in every classroom and between using their imagination to mold and create anything they can think of, to simply squishing it between their fingers, there is something every child can do with it. It’s hard to imagine that something so simple can be so beneficial to the development of children.

When using playdough, children are actively developing their fine motor skills. We offer small objects to hide in the playdough that can be picked out using their pincer grasp, child-safe scissors to cut the playdough with, and molds that they can squish the playdough into. One of the challenges that we have faced in the past is that store bought playdough often dries out and doesn’t last very long, and no one likes playing with crumbly dough! Below you will find a very easy homemade playdough recipe that we use here at the center. It’s soft, lasts a long time without drying out, and has no harmful ingredients so even our youngest friends can use it safely.

Here are a few ideas of activities to do with playdough at home.

Playdough Treasure Hunt: Hide objects like gems or coins in the playdough and let your child dig through and find them. This can be especially fun and challenging if you have a large amount of playdough and only hide one or two things!

Nature Stamps: Go on a nature walk and collect things like rocks, leaves, bark, and flowers. Once home, press into the playdough to see what the impressions look like.

Scented/Textured Dough: Since you are making your own dough, you can easily add different scents and textures. Try adding peppermint extract, lavender essential oil, or sand to your dough. There are endless options!

Have fun with it and let us know what activities you and your child(ren) did with your new homemade playdough!

Simple Homemade Playdough


2 Cups All Purpose Flour                                             4 Tablespoons Cream of Tartar

2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil                                      2 Cups Water

2/3 Cups Salt                                                               Food Coloring (Optional)

Essential Oil (Optional)

Mix all ingredients except food coloring and essential oil in a pot over medium heat. The mixture will look like lumpy pancake batter. Continuously stir playdough for several minutes until everything is combined. Add a few drops of food coloring and your favorite essential oil at this time. Stir to combine. Continue to stir until the mixture starts sticking together. This will take a little time but don’t give up! Eventually, the mixture will form a ball. You will know it’s done when the dough pulls away from the side of the pot. Take the dough off the heat (careful, it’s hot!) and knead it on the counter for a few minutes to make sure all color and scent is incorporated. Store in a sealed container for up to 6 months. Enjoy!