Developmental Benefits of Play Dough

Developmental Benefits of Play Dough

Written by Guest Contributor Cally Archibald

Playing with play dough has huge developmental benefits. Play dough is such a simple way to engage your child in creative play. Creative play is critical to a child’s learning and development. It allows for physical development, social skills, critical thinking skills, emotional intelligence, and language development.

Have you ever noticed that each creation is the ultimate and greatest creation ever made just like each surgery is precise and critical to each surgeon?

Scissors. Knife. Tweezers. Cookie cutter. Wait cookie cutter? Are we not in a surgical room? No, actually this is happening in the kitchen with a child making the most critical creation of their life in this moment with play dough.

One of my go-to creative play activities is with play dough. By starting with one color of play dough as a base and adding correlating toys to create a beach, dinosaur kingdom, grasslands, or a farm, really the options are endless!

Children are then given an open scene to make it their own. They can create a family of animals, and underwater wonderland, or a fierce volcano that will erupt any second! Who knows what will happen next?!

5 Developmental Benefits to Play Dough

Physical Development

Playing with play dough will improve your child’s physical development. As the child is twisting, shaping, and forming the play dough they are building their tiny little hand and finger muscles. This is fine motor skills at its best.

This hand muscle building is perfect for later skills like cutting with scissors and writing with a pencil

Social Skill Development

Playing with others while playing with play dough will enhance social skills.

two kids playing with play dough and building their social skills

Taking turns using a certain play dough utensil is a great way to learn how to share and how to be patient. Play dough can also create an environment to build an imaginary land together with a friend, sibling, or parent.

Related: Playing with Play Dough

Critical Thinking Skills

When your child play with play dough they are engaging in critical thinking skill development. Play dough is not uniform so it can be top heavy, side heavy, or bottom heavy depending on how an object has been built. This allows the child to mold the object to make it so it stands upright or in whatever way they desire. It takes critical thinking to evaluate a situation and make the play dough stand how the child wants it to be.

piles of green, orange, and yellow play dough used to help kids de

Emotional Intelligence Development

You can use play dough to devlop your child’s emotional intelligence.

Play dough is very calming. It can be used as a grounding tool to help a child with big emotions. Asking the child what color they see, how does the play dough feel in their hands, how does it smell, can they smell any scents will ground a child to their reality and allow them to calm down. This helps them to sort through their emotions in a healthy and non-judgmental way.

Language Development

Speech language pathologists use play dough as a tool in their sessions often.

green play dough with dinosaurs, trees, and small glass beads used to benefit speech development

One of my favorite things to listen to is what stories my children come up with while playing with play dough. These stories build their vocabulary and language development. They are able to describe actions and then will put the actions with the objects being used.

Pin for later

preschoolers playing with paper towel roll activity text reads use paper towel tolls for learning 4 simple ways

As you can see, play dough has many different benefits.

Just the other day my two-year-old could not calm down. I had tried everything. Then I remembered that I hadn’t tried play dough yet! Within two minutes of setting the play dough up he was engrossed in a world of imagination and forgot about what was upsetting him. It was amazing!

I hope you and your child can find calmness and creativity with play dough as well.

Play Dough Recipe:

Supplies needed:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • ½ cup of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 ½ cup boiling water
  • Gel food coloring


  1. Pour flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil into a bowl.
  2. Pour the boiling water into the bowl of dry ingredients.
  3. Carefully mix all of the ingredients together until a dough is formed. If it is too wet add more flour a little at a time. If it is too dry add water a little at a time.
  4. After the dough has cooled, it can be divided up to make different colors or it can stay in one piece to have just one color.
  5. Knead the gel food coloring into the dough and mix thoroughly.
  6. Play!

This play dough can be stored in an airtight container for up to three months.

Related: Sugar Cookie Play Dough

Cally Archibald

Cally Archibald

Guest Contributor

Cally Archibald is a mother of a four year old girl and two year old boy. She believes knowledge is power and educating children with creative and engaging activities can ensure a brilliant future for a child. She has created educational activity booklets for the entire alphabet that include coloring, arts and crafts, math, counting, science, baking, and more in each booklet. She also has stand alone items as well. She is excited to share the love of learning to all!

Connect with Cally on Instagram, Pinterest, and Etsy.

Leave a comment