Playdough is such a versatile play material that we really can’t get enough of it in our house. My elder daughter is nine now and we’ve been using playdough since she was around the age of one. We make a fresh batch using our favorite homemade recipe every few months and have it out to play most weeks. That’s a lot of playdough playing! I think it’s remained one of our favorite ways to play because we’re always adding new elements – new ingredients or accessories to give it a twist and invite the children to try the dough a different way.
Have you ever tried adding drinking straws to your playdough? This was a super frugal material for us as they’d already been used for scissor practise and making some contact paper art – but how would the kids use it with playdough? It’s always interesting to offer a new combination of materials, sit alongside an observe, and see what they children discover.
She tested out how to make the straws stand upright in the dough and we mixed in some math play by ordering the straw pieces from the biggest to the smallest. She also made families by collecting all the straws into matching color groups – great classification practise while she played.
If you’d like a printable version of our favorite playdough recipes, together with a year’s worth of ideas of things you can add in with your playdough, please stop by NurtureStore to get a free copy of our Let’s Play Dough ebook. I’d love to welcome you over on our Facebook page too – please come and like NurtureStore and I’ll keep in a regular supply of new play ideas.
Cathy James is the creative force behind NurtureStore a blog devoted to play ideas, kids’ crafts and fun activities.
Crafts for toddlers often has more than one goal. My main goal is special time together but often I have a secondary goal like fine motor development, learning colors, or sensory play. My daughter is 20 months old and I have no laundry list of things I want her to know at this age , my goal is to expose her to lots of fun activities and see what she takes a liking to. She loves water play so I thought she might like to try puffy paint again, I was right. This is a great activity for preschoolers too, don’t think simple crafts like this are only for toddlers.
- Gather your materials. You will need some plain old shaving cream, green paint ( darker the better), something to stir with , plain white glue, a marker , scissors and heavy paper.
- Start by drawing a shamrock on heavy paper don’t worry about it being even close to perfect you will be slopping and squishing puffy paint all over it!
- Time to mix. My son who was playing Lego in the playroom but didn’t want to make a craft did pop up to help mix. I do this so often I don’t measure anymore. I usually use about a cup of shaving cream to about 1/4 cup of glue. Then add the paint until it’s the color you want. Ours was greener than it looks but definitely a mint green.
- Start playing.
- She wasn’t sure at first.
- But soon both her hands were squishing, spreading and exploring.
- Yay fun !! We played and played.
- She was not happy when I told her it was time to wash hands.
- But washing the container in the sink was a great treat… for both of us.
- Let dry (at least 24 hours so the paint stays puffy even after you cut into it) and cut out.
This sensory activity allows kids to use their imagination to give you or themselves a new hairdo with playdough. My toddler is a huge fan of playdough play and it’s great stuff for toddlers and preschoolers… but my 5 year old gets bored easily sometimes. It’s not essential we all play the same things but it’s nice to play and be silly together .It was inspired by this paint project from Putti Prapancha . Adapting it to playdough allowed us all to sit and play together .
- Gather your materials. You will need some sheet protectors, some photos of faces that you can cut, playdough ( ours is store bought but homemade will work a-ok), a few sheets of construction paper, some scissors, painters tape, double stick tape and a garlic press.
- Start by cutting out the faces from some family pictures. Cut off the hair!
- Tape them onto the construction paper using double stick tape.
- Slip it into a page protector. I had to trim my construction paper to fit.Tape to the table with painter’s tape if you have a little one like my daughter who takes great pleasure in “clearing off” tables.
- Start playing. We used the garlic press, our hands and scissors to make the hair.
- My daughter loved putting it on my face, apparently she wants me to have a goatee. Don’t worry about toddlers putting the hair in the “right” place, there is no “right” place. Talk about who they are looking at , talk about how squishy the playdough is and ask if they have hair etc… no need to make it a battle of wills, this is supposed to be play, so let them explore.
- We rotated through the pictures taking turns ( another good lesson) .He loved mixing the colors in the garlic press.
- Squeezing it out.
- Adding it on. For some reason the concept of chest hair has been a big topic at our house – not something I was expecting until closer to puberty but ok. He added some on his sister and himself. Have fun with this.
Books About Families
Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman is one of those books that you read and think oh I love it, but will kids? I am here to tell you yes! They love this old Yiddish folk tale about a little boy, his very special blanket and his grandfather who made it for him. Over the years Joseph’s blanket transforms into a jacket, a vest, a tie, and handkerchief and finally a button. The story is beautiful and kids love not only the repetitive text when the grandfather is sewing but also the continuing storyline of the mice that live under the floor boards who use the scraps of material for all sorts of things. There are no goofy gimmicks, no lights or sounds just a great story and beautiful illustrations in this gem! A fantastic book about family and growing up.
All Kinds of Families! by Mary Ann Hoberman was not what my son or I expected at all. The story is really disjointed both connecting similar objects into families and talking about the generations of a family. I like that it explains that there can be all sorts of families and that it talks about how your family makes you into new things like a son, sister or cousin but I think mixing the two is too disconnected for the average picture book reading kid. To be honest it was a little disjointed for me too. My son was ready for it to be over half way through and that is never a good sign. Usually by the time he’s asked if it’s over he’s tuned out. The illustrations were cute but even they didn’t save it for us.
The Family Book by Todd Parr is a book that doesn’t give readers a narrow definition of family , it doesn’t say that your family has to look a certain way, or be the same as your neighbors. As a teacher I really appreciated the matter of fact way it embraced diversity. Kids see that families are not all like theirs and it’s important to validate the truth while recognizing that while they may not all look alike, all families are made with love. Great book , cute illustrations and children love it.This post contains affiliate links.
I know tomorrow is Valentine’s Day but my mind is already planning St.Patrick’s Day. If you need a Valentine’s Day craft idea we have those too but I had to share this because it was too much fun to keep to ourselves any longer. The major bonus of this project was that for toddlers who are putting everything in their mouths it’s no biggy if they take a bite. I added koolaid to make it smell great and sour to discourage eating it. This must be kept in the fridge so make some , you won’t regret it.
- Gather your materials. I used 6 foil pans I had on hand but any container will work to set the gelatin, you will need plain gelatin packets 4 per color, food color, spoons, a pot, measuring cups and koolaid for scent/added color. Also a big tub and some bath toys for playing.
- Start by mixing your colors. I used koolaid mostly for scent but also for color.
- Make the gelatin. I used the recipe on the back of the knox gelatin box adjusting it to 1/2 as much liquid ( 1/2 cup of cool and 1 cup hot and 4 envelopes of gelatin) as the recipe called for to make it thicker for play using plain water with color/ koolaid in it. I made all 6 colors.
- Let cool – I had to stack them in my fridge so I popped a few in the freezer for a minute to stiffen and totally forgot about this purple one… if froze, and was unusable. The kids didn’t miss it at all.
- When set slice into pieces. I used a knife then scraped it into the tub using a spatula.
- Add kids and toys. He was so excited he was bouncing, this is the best picture of many very blurry bouncy pictures I took.
- You can probably tell we did this in our bathroom, please find a place where tiny bits of color won’t ruin anything. The gelatin won’t stain hands but can be absorbed into clothes and other fabrics. Please go somewhere where kids can have fun without you hovering and you won’t have to search for stain removers on Pinterest after this project. Our bathroom was perfect, I had a damp cloth handy for little bits that got shaken off hands or toys and flung all over. It also had a door to stop kids from running into the rest of the house before hands were washed. All this said it was still completely worth it.
- They stuck them on the side of the tub.
- Smelled it.
- Tasted it ( love my son’s face, he’s telling her not to eat it).
- Mixed them all up and had a blast.
Last week we were snowed in and getting antsy. I decided to make a sticky table for my kids to explore with but when I looked at all the supplies I had to stick to it they were all choking hazards except these colored craft sticks . I thought it was going to be a 5 minute sparkler but as you will see my son ran with it. I loved reading stories to his sister who lost interest after 5 minutes like I expected and just watching him giddily create.
- Gather your materials. You will need some contact paper, painter’s tape to tape it to the table, scissors and whatever you want to stick to the table. With older kids I’ve used sequins, buttons, tissue paper, pom poms…
- Tape the contact paper down backing side up.
- Peel the backing off and trim.
- Explore the feeling- my son loved the feeling on the back of his hands, he just kept doing that.
- Add the sticks.
- My daughter liked placing the sticks and the resistance when she picked them off. Also she was doing it very carefully working on her pincer grasp ( fine motor skills).
- My son saw the possibility to create immediately grabbing the bag and asking if he could have all the sticks and his sister’s too.
- I just let him go.
- And go
- And go.
- If you look closely you can see a few houses in his creation – they are clone bases apparently. I just love that he was so engaged, so excited and watching those wheels turning so passionately was exhilarating.