30 Days to Hands on Play Challenge: Play Dough Exploration!

Day 5 Challenge:

Play Dough Exploration!

No, no no! Please don’t run away saying “I don’t do messy play!” I promise it’s not really messy, you can keep it for months as a stand-by play activity and your little one will LOVE it! 

Play with dough a lot? Hopefully this will be a bit different and you will give it a go!

Step one: 
Make some play dough together and let your child help with the measuring, stirring and kneading!

Here’s our very easy no-cook recipe:
  • 2 cups plain flour (all purpose)
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1.5 cups boiling water (adult to add this)
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar (if you don’t have this try a small squeeze of lemon juice or skip it altogether)
  • some food colouring and/ or scent (optional steps)
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Knead until no longer sticky and it comes together well. It’s very hot at first, so adult hands in the bowl only until it cools. If still a little sticky then add some more flour. 

This whole process takes approximately FOUR to FIVE minutes!! So easy and a fun activity in its own right! If you haven’t tried it before, give it a go.
Purple glittery no-cook play dough, scented with strawberry flavouring!
If you don’t have the ingredients handy then shop bought play dough will do. After all, the aim is to have fun- not feel too much pressure!

Step 2:
Go around the house and garden, looking for unusual objects to collect into bowls. Here are some of the things we found:

coloured pasta, pebbles, shells, feathers, glass pebbles, leaves
Suggested materials for play dough exploration!

Some other ideas:
cut straws, crayons, bottle tops, duple pieces, sticks, cotton buds, dry pasta, spaghetti, pipe cleaners, marbles

Step 3:
Lay out all the objects with the play dough and start exploring together!

*There’s an extra “rule” in today’s challenge. You are not allowed to tell your child to make anything at all. No sculpting little animal models to copy, suggesting they  add eyes or form the letters of their name. Nope! This is all about free play and open-ended exploration

If your child is a bit older they may well choose to make something with the dough, but let them lead the way. If you sit back and just play alongside them, exploring the materials together, you may be surprised and how inventive and creative they become! It’s certainly a lesson I’ve learned with my own children and is great to watch.*

Straight away Cakie went to fetch a tub of play animals and play people and she added those to the other things we had collected. She made a “pig trap” with pebbles and feathers, then “caught a pig” in the middle of it. Nope, I have no idea where that idea came from but it was pretty funny! She then invented an elaborate story with the play people and pasta shapes, getting them all to roll down the play dough hills and play together! 

Pop grabbed as much as her little fists would hold and shoved them all into her ball of dough! She tried out all of the objects and then sat some people on top. She licked the dough a few times (as she does every time we play with dough!) but soon decided against it. She really took the time to feel the pebbles and glass stones particularly, turning them over in her fingers and looking at them closely.

I had my own dough and sat alongside them playing for ages, sticking in objects, talking about how they felt etc. It’s very therapeutic and plenty of fun! We played for about half an hour, so a little longer than the required 15 minutes today.

Great thing about today’s activity? You can keep this dough in a zip-loc bag in the cupboard for months and pull it out as a fill-in activity while dinner is cooking or the kids are cranky! Ours comes out regularly!

Please remember, these are just ideas and prompts for play! You will need to adapt them to suit your own child(ren) and follow their lead and interests. Most of all, we want you to have FUN!
Be sure to sign up for daily reminders to the 30 Days to Hands on Play Challenge here and discuss how it is going over at The Play Network .

Tomorrow hands on: as we grow will have the challenge for day 6!

If you are writing about this challenge on your own blog you may wish to use this button to let people know!


  1. says

    Oh this is great. I can´t believe how well we´re fitting into this challenge. We made a new batch of coloured playdough just yesterday. 3 yr old loved squishing in the paint. Will go exploring for “things” after breakfast.

  2. says

    Can’t wait to play with some play dough, We’ll be making some since we’ve been out for a little while, the girls will be extra happy! :)

  3. says

    We made red sandy play dough today – we used the same recipe as yours, but with cold water and no salt (good if you have a play dough eater!) and it worked really well!!