Tactile learning with playdough

Playing with playdough can help children investigate mathematical ideas, compare, measure and count, while developing the small muscles in their hands.

As children twist, knead, pull and work with the dough, they are exploring ways to create three dimensional objects and communicate mathematical ideas, while using their bodies to foster physical development.

Getting started with a playdough project

What you need:

  • tools: plastic knives, rolling pins, kitchen scales, biscuit cutters, trays or tins
  • things for making patterns: corrugated cardboard, leaves or twigs
  • decorations: pebbles, marbles, toothpicks, seeds, rice, macaroni
  • play dough.
Making dough

Making your own dough can be a fun project for your child. Weighing, measuring and mixing ingredients can help children understand mathematical concepts of weight, volume and numbers. (You can find a DIY playdough recipe here.)

Learning through play

Create a space for your child to play, including a table or flat surface for them to manipulate the dough. Work with your child to arrange the tools and materials for their play so that things are easy to reach and can be easily put away.

As children manipulate play dough to create three dimensional objects, they are learning about texture, shape, size, pattern and design. If they are playing in a group or with another person, they will also need to use mathematical terms and language skills to communicate ideas.

Discuss what shapes your child is making, using language to compare (bigger, smaller, flatter, etc.), measure (heavy, light, long, etc.), count (how many, numbers, etc.) and shapes (round, edge, flat, side, etc.).

If playing make-believe, ask questions to encourage your child to think and learn. For example they might create food to be sold from a ‘shop’; you can ask what the different items are and how much they cost. Following your child’s lead will also support imaginative play and boost their self-esteem.

Image Children interact excitedly with an educator as they play with playdough

Published — 30 August 2016 Last updated — 04 November 2016