Whole play, they create a relaxed environment that is

Whole Learning with
Playdough Activities

children (and adults) play, they create a relaxed environment that is friendly
and easy to learn in. Both free and structured play are beneficial to learning.
Free play allows imagination and creativity, while structured play provides
rules and guidelines—needed for understanding organization and following
directions later in life. There are numerous categories of play, too; from
social and solitary play, to quiet or constructive play, each type of play is
important for developing different skills. Playdough is a great medium that can
be altered for various activities in the areas of play, and helps connect the
pathways of whole learning.

Benefits of Making Your
Own Playdough

As with
many products, safe and natural options are always better for babies and
toddlers who are more susceptible to items they touch or consume. You can
control and get creative with the ingredients in playdough when you make it at
home. If you prefer plant-based ingredients, you can also choose food colorings
that are cruelty-free and nontoxic. You can adapt your homemade playdough recipeRF1  to benefit your child’s specific
interest and encourage her learning in different areas. For instance, if you
would like to teach her about texture, you can add rolled oats or very fine grits.
Additionally, if your baby is notorious for mouthing items (most are) you can
rest assured that your recipe is completely safe, if not edible–straight from
your kitchen to her hands.


skills develop through the five senses: touch, taste, vision, smell, and
hearing. The sensory pathway is the first to develop and be
used in your child, and it is how she explores the world around her.
Encouraging sensory skills builds the foundation for additional pathways. Using
playdough, you can watch your baby poke, roll, and squish. Make softer
playdough by adding additional water, or add an ingredient like whole grains or
sand to create texture and promote sensory skills. You can also add a couple
drops of diluted essential oils such as lavender or chamomile (no longer edible
with these ingredients) to distinguish scent between different batches.

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The movement pathway develops gross and fine motor
skills, as well as spatial awareness. Gross motor skills involve the larger
muscles in the body and the movements they control, like walking or sitting.
Fine motor skills refer to smaller movements and the muscles that develop to
make these actions, like the ability to hold a pencil or make the pincer
motion. Spatial awareness applies to the understanding of size, shape, space,
and position. Making shapes and stacking them, or simply manipulating playdough
develops the movement pathway.


with peers, parents, and self is what develops the interactive pathway; which is essential for language,
social intelligence, and healthy cognitive skills. Using playdough as a group
activity encourages sharing and patience while taking turns. Try using a
certain color first, then share with your child. Use playdough-making as a base
for a playdate and help teach positive interactions.


Your baby
begins listening to you before she is born, and begins to recognize your voice and
noises as she matures. The communication pathway helps her develop the skills
necessary for listening, speaking, reading and writing, and languages.
Playdough is a great tool for learning words like colors, textures, or shapes.
Create shapes using playdough and use different colors. Repeatedly refer to shapes
and color by name, and describe consistency to help associate words with your
playdough creations. For example, use words like “lumpy” or “smooth”, and
“square” or “circle”.


cognitive ability refers to her memory, curiosity, and problem solving. You can
help develop her cognitive pathway by asking questions and offering
choices that allow her to understand her own mind. Create letters from the alphabet,
numbers, and other shapes using fun and safe cookie cutters. Ask her what she
thinks each is, or what she would like to create for the day. These new
experiences enhance her ability to recognize and associate objects or symbols.


toys allow your child to imagine and create her own storylines and games
through art. This type of play encourages exploration and thought-provoking
activities that expand the creative pathway. She can express herself through
the items she sculps with playdough, and choose which colors appeal to her.


The naturalist pathway develops due to your baby’s innate
curiosity in nature. Collect items with your child like twigs, feathers,
interesting pebbles, and other things to utilize them with playdough
creativity. Sculp different animals you see during excursions and recreate
plants, like flowers from your garden, using the various bright colors you can
make with natural food dyes.

Whole Learning

You can
touch on and integrate the pathways of whole learning through playdough. One
playdough activity may encourage development on numerous pathways, so trying
multiple ideas will help connect other pathways that may not have been linked


link to recipe article