My oldest child is incredibly bright. But, being my first child, I worried about him being ready for school. I used flashcards to help him learn the alphabet. We did workbooks upon workbooks. I even asked his seasoned preschool teacher what more I could do to prepare him for kindergarten. Her answer surprised me. “Have him play with playdough!” I didn’t want to admit it then, but something simple like easy homemade playdough can help your child in so many ways.
Benefits of playdough
If you are anything like me, you probably don’t love the mess that comes with playdough. And I’ll be honest, playdough can get messy. Even if I keep my kids at the table, I usually need to sweep after they play. But the mess is worthwhile. Let’s talk about the ways the playdough can benefit your child.
Developing fine motor skill development
One of the biggest hurdles for kids to jump over when they start school is developing fine motor skills. You know, the skills that help your child hold a pencil correctly, or cut with scissors? Yeah, those skills. I like to think of it as toughening up my kids fingers. Playdough is a great way to strengthen those muscles in your child’s hands. As they stretch, squeeze, knead, and roll playdough, it toughens those little hands up.
I love watching my kids play with playdough. It honestly cracks me up. They make pretend cookies, snakes, pizza, noodles, and even people. It usually doesn’t take long before they are pressing beads, and cars into the mix just so they can see the impressions they leave. With playdough as a blank slate, your kids imaginations will come up with some amazing things.
Beyond strengthening your child’s fine motor skills, you can intentionally use playdough as a learning aid. Instead of pulling up a boring flashcard, have your preschooler make the letters of their name with playdough. Ask them to make 10 “cookies”. It’ll help them count. I even had my seven-year-old make a playdough volcano a week ago so we could use it in a science experiment with baking soda and vinegar. It’s a tactile learning experience.
The physical action of squeezing, pushing, kneading, and stretching can be almost therapeutic. If your child is stressed or worried about something, playdough can bring them a sense of calm and control.
This might seem obvious, but when you make easy homemade playdough, you are ready for fun. Your kids will love playing with playdough because it’s something fun to do!
Whether you buy playdough from the store, or look up an easy homemade playdough recipe, it’s relatively inexpensive. Compare that to a lot of other activities, and you are getting a lot of fun and learning for not a lot of money.
Making easy homemade playdough
Now, you can definitely buy playdough at the store. It’s not incredibly expensive. But, we love making easy homemade playdough. It’s definitely cheaper than the store bought version. You can make larger quantities in whatever color you like. I also love that I know exactly what’s in the playdough. I never need to worry about little hands putting it in their mouths.
There are so many recipes out there for making homemade playdough. Some of them require cooking on a stovetop while others just ask that you dump ingredients into a bowl and mix together. We’ve tried a lot of different kinds. I’ve never had good long term success with the no-cook recipes. It seems like cooking makes the dough less grainy and longer-lasting. But, that’s just my experience. This recipe requires a quick heating on the stove top. Honestly, it takes less than 10 minutes, so I don’t see this as a big problem.
Easy homemade playdough recipe
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons cream of tarter
- Food coloring
In a large saucepan, mix together the salt, flour, and cream of tarter. Add in the water, vegetable oil, and food coloring (as desired). Mix well.
On medium heat, keep mixing the playdough mixture until the sides of it begin to pull away from the pan and look “cooked”. You might even notice the bottom looking a little cooked as you stir it up.
As soon as the dough looks like it is close to the right consistency for playdough, dump it out on your countertop or table and knead it until smooth.
Now it’s time to play! Let your kids go wild. Or, make another color. It’s easy enough that I usually will make several batches in a row, each a different color. I even use the same pan without washing.
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Once your kids are finished playing with the playdough, make sure you store it in an airtight container. This recipe would probably fill a few of the store bought containers of playdough. Not to mention my kids are horrible about putting on lids. Instead, we put them in large Ziploc baggies. Stored well, this recipe can last up to 6 months. If you find that your playdough is getting a little dry, just add a teaspoon of vegetable oil and knead it in. If it’s dry beyond saving, just toss and make more! It’ll just take a few minutes.
Do you love playdough? Take a few minutes to make this easy homemade playdough and let me know how it goes!