Developmental Benefits of Play Dough for Kids

Squish, smash, twist, turn…mess.

We have all had experiences with playdough, whether in our own childhood or with our own children. But outside of simple messy play, what exactly is playdough good for?

While some may find this surprising, play dough has a wide array of developmental, learning, and sensory benefits for kids. This is why playdough is a staple in almost every early childhood classroom. Its versatility makes playdough one of those items that should be a part of every childhood.

What Playdough Teaches Kids

The benefits of playing with playdough in early childhood cover many areas of development and learning. It’s playful versatility easily makes playdough a childhood staple. As your child manipulates and molds their playdough creations they are doing much more than just having fun. Playful learning? Sign us up! Below you will find all the fantastic benefits that your child is getting everytime they play with playdough or clay.
Fine Motor Skills: This helps in your children’s hands develop the strength, dexterity, and control needed to manipulate everyday items such as scissors, pencils, zippers, and buttons. 


Socioemotional Skills: Playdough provides a lot of open-ended opportunities for children to experience independent and cooperative play. In both styles of play, children are exploring abilities, life experiences, and emotions. During play with others (either an adult or child) children are learning about cooperation, collaboration, self-control, and friendships. 

Creativity: From dramatic play to initiating and creating whatever your child’s imagination can come up with, playdough is a fantastic outlet. Playdough can be anything! 

Language and Literacy: As children discuss what they are creating or their sensory experiences they are expanding their vocabulary. As you ask your child questions they are learning to listen. There are so many different ways children learn comprehension, listening, and communication skills through playing with playdough. 

Science and Math: Trial and error, creating shapes, comparing sizes – just simply playing with playdough exposes kids to a vast array of math and science concepts.

Household Playdough Items


Blocks Cookie Cutters
Tooth Picks Q-Tips
Comb Straws
Cups/Bowls Kids Silverware
Wine Corks Twigs/Stones
Shells Pine Cones
Buttons Googly Eyes
Bottle Tops Garlic Masher
Plastic Animals Mr. Potato Head Pieces
Strainer Pipe Cleaners
Legos Rolling Pin
Melon Baller Matchbox Cars

Parenting Chaos Printable Shop

Playdough Mats and other Playdough Printables
Click on the image to see what’s available

Sensory Benefits of Play Dough

Hand Strengthening: Squishing, smashing, pushing, pulling, twisting, cutting…all the fun of playdough. Just the basic act of playing with playdough builds those hands muscles. Playdough also comes in a variety of different consistencies some of which require more strength than others to manipulate making it fairly easy to meet individual needs.

Proprioceptive: Pushing in cookie cutters or toys, pulling back a rolling pin, or even just squeezing a very stiff dough all provide deep pressure input for your child’s joints.

Sensorimotor: Ever just sit there and squeeze/roll around a ball of play dough in your hands while your child sat there and played? A lot like a stress ball, play dough is a stress reliever. And this works for your kids too!

Tactile: Everything about playdough at the most basic level is about exploring using the tactile sensory system. From textures to consistencies, to toys and items used, playdough is all about hands-on exploration.

Olfactory: Adding scents to playdough is ridiculously easy and one of our favorite things to do! For some simple ideas check out the links below.

Play Dough Recipes and Play Ideas for Kids

Naturally Dyed Dandelion Play Dough Recipe

Learn how to naturally dye homemade playdough using dandelions with this simple tutorial + video. Inside of this post we will show you how to create a vibrant yellow play dough using simple ingredients that you have around your home. Spring is finally here and with...

Homemade Watermelon Play Dough

One of my absolute favorite scents of the summer is watermelon so when it came time to make a batch of play dough for us to use this week, I just could not pass up making some Homemade Watermelon Play Dough. Playdough is a fantastic fine motor activity without adding...

Birthday Cake Play Dough Recipe

Homemade Play Dough is one of our absolutely favorite quiet time activities and with this month being birthday month for two of my kids we just could not pass up some cupcake making pretend play! This Birthday Cake Play Dough Recipe took us less than 10 minutes to...

Hazelnut Scented Taste-Safe Play Dough

You’re going to love this hazelnut scented, textured play dough. It smells great, is easy to make and is taste-safe. It’s a fun way to do something a little different for your sensory play. It doesn’t matter how many times we make play dough – the boys love it! I try...

Taste Safe Pumpkin Play Dough

It’s common among kids to think playdough is the best thing since sliced bread. They will especially love this taste safe pumpkin playdough recipe! My kids definitely love any kind of playdough that comes their way. It’s squishy, it feels cool in their hands, and they...

DIY Playdough Soap Recipe

Disclosure: I have been compensated by Johnson’s® Baby for this post; however, I am sharing my own thoughts. All opinions are my own. If ever I am having a day where I definitely need a parenting win I can count on this simple DIY Playdough Soap Recipe at bath time to...

How to Make Orange Dreamsicle Playdough

As a kid, Orange Dreamsicles were one of my absolute favorite things. I am almost positive that you could say that as a child I was addicted to push pops…Almost every day after school I would pop on my rollerblades, grab the dog and a bag of quarters to head to...

How to Make Playdough with Skittles

Earlier this week I had a crazy idea and it worked. It’s not too often that they do. This simple no-cook recipe on How to Make Playdough with Skittles is so easy even my three-year-old could make it! How We Came Up With Making Skittles Playdough (because this...

Back to Top