Fine Motor Program: Playdough

I have started back at work part time and as part of my role I am implementing a Fine Motor program for 5-6 year olds in a mainstream school.

When I started looking for activities I had a few criteria I wanted to tick all (or at least a majority) of them for each activity:

  • open ended so that children can explore and experiment
  • preferably self levelling and independently used- with a class full of children I want each child to meet the activity at their own developmental capacity, the last thing I want is to spend vast amounts of time hand over hand supporting students to complete something that was beyond them
  • interesting and engaging to the students
  • somewhat challenging (or can be adapted to be more challenging)
  • relatively low mess and fast clean up as it is not my classroom space, it’s carpet and I need to be able to take it straight to the next classroom ready for use
  • safe and sturdy enough to last the sessions with multiple uses
  • not too many each week are intensive for me to prep
  • can be done solo-no sharing is required therefore not an issue

As a huge believer in playdough so I started session 1 with playdough. They LOVED playdough and in response I have determined to vary it and offer it each week.

This is the recipe I use. The most exciting thing seems to be what colour I have made it.I started with grey as I thought it would be an unusual choice and catch their eye. It certainly did! Next time I made a nice mid aqua.

Playdough is an amazing tool for building fine motor skills.

Playdough activity round up:

  • roll a tall tower, press it don using flat hand or fist (this gets to be hard work after a few times!)
  • Snakes and dragons -the base level of skill is to roll a snake, the more complex to pinch along the back to make a “dragon”, roll tiny legs, add other features
  • Monsters I adapted this by telling the children that the monsters were “hiding” inside the balls of dough- a small handful of googly eyes sufficed. After they used their hands to pick through the dough they designed their monsters and decorated with multi-coloured feathers. Then I took a photo and they had to “hide” the monster again for the next child. This involved finger isolation as they poked a hole then pushed the eyes inside then covered them up. This was extremely popular.
  • Print making- using small objects experiment making prints. Have a friend guess how you made a print. Include shells, lego, counters (eg teddy, dino, insects). After their love of “finding” things in the dough I will hide them inside again. This would also be fun (if you had time…) to do as an “eye-spy” type activity, or even a Phonics sorting activity. You could have 3 letters (eg C, M, S) and put items starting with one of those three letters inside the dough. As they find they sort onto a letter chart or letter labelled bowl.  Alternatively- this could be a colour sorting activity too.
  • Marble runs
  • Bakery: design your own cupcake using supplied small items using tweezers. I will offer varied small items
  • Spiders- this is probably as “directed” as I like playdough. It is more of a starting idea to use the web placemat as a prompt. They can make the actual spider and add eyes to their own designs
  • Drawing- now this is at the end of the official program I designed. It is their favoured activity but with the twist of writing. There are some reluctant writers. The chance to write ON plain white dough is something most would have never tried. I am hoping it inspires them to actually write or draw by CHOICE.


Need more inspiration or want to understand why playdough is so wonderful?

MamaOT 12 Simple Play Dough Activities for Preschoolers

MamaOT 10 Play Dough Activities for Toddlers

Playdough to build language and play skills from the Hanen Centre

Learn with Play at Home have ideas for Invitations to play

The Imagination Tree has a Tool Kit with ideas for what you might add to playdough

An Everyday Story shows how to offer playdough using inquiry based learning.

Hands on as We Grow list 34 Things to Make & Do with Play Dough

Empowered Educator Sensory play with playdough through playbased learning




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