Do your kids love play dough? It you’re looking for ways to spice up your play dough center and make it more fun and exciting for your preschool, pre-k, or kindergarten students, you’re in the right place! These play dough center ideas will have your little learners engaged and on-task for longer periods of time, and they’re all tied to academic standards – can I get an amen?
Play Dough Center Ideas
You know how it goes, there’s never enough space in any early childhood classroom. You have lots of little bodies that need space to move and play, but not enough room to do it in.
But I encourage you to consider having a separate tub for each of the materials in your play dough center. When the materials are separated it sends the message to your children that these items are important enough to have their own space. The academic skills that young children acquire when playing with play dough are vast, it’s a powerhouse of learning and fun!
If play is the work of young children, and play dough is one of their favorite ways to do that work, then the work should be respected. Don’t you agree?
For your play dough center, you can purchase pre-made play dough, or you can also try making your own Easy DIY Homemade Playdough Recipe. I swear by this homemade recipe I’ve used in my classroom for 20+ years.
Play Dough Rolling Pins
Rolling pins are a must in your play dough center. It’s easy to dismiss rolling pins as dangerous or not important, but rolling pins provide opportunities for children to develop the small muscles in the palms of their hands. The palmar arch is necessary for holding a pencil and writing.
The rolling pin pictured here is one that children have to actually roll against their palms to work properly. Some rolling pins have a rolling feature that allows the child to just grip the handles. The rolling pins without this feature are the ones that will help develop the palmar arch.
Academically speaking, if young children are going to be expected to write their names or write for a purpose in kindergarten, they will need well developed muscles in their hands to do so. Providing your students with rolling pins in the play dough center directly supports the development of writing skills.
Cutting Play Dough with Scissors
Scissor skills can be tough for many young children to master. If your kids struggle to hold their scissors properly and have difficulty holding and cutting the paper, listen up!
Using scissors with play dough is an excellent way for young children to practice their cutting skills in a safe environment. The cheapest, plastic scissors you can find are best for use with play dough- metal scissors will rust.
Your kids will be less frustrated when they use scissors with play dough because it’s much easier than cutting paper. The play dough provides them with a fun and non-threatening way to practice their cutting skills. Of course, cutting also exercises the muscles in their hands and fingers that will be necessary for writing.
Learning Letters in the Play Dough Center
Nothing could be more academic than learning how to spell your own name. These alphabet stampers from Lakeshore Learning are perfect for stamping names in dough.
The play dough doesn’t get stuck inside the stampers like it does with cookie cutters. The letters on the stampers are also more realistic looking, some alphabet cookie cutters use block fonts that are difficult for young children to recognize.
Be sure to provide name models for children to look at as they make their names. You can use name cards with the children’s names written on them.
Making People in the Play Dough Center
Creativity and imaginative play are other important skills supported by using play dough in the classroom.
An added benefit of making people or creatures with play dough is that children will often lend voice to their creations, which is a great way to support oral language development!
The people pieces seen here are from a kit; however you could also use Mr. Potato Head pieces.
Using Cookie Cutters in the Play Dough Center
You can have some basic cookie cutters in your play dough center that you keep out year round. Then you can add thematic cookie cutters at certain times of the year to keep it interesting and exciting.
The Best Play Dough Tools
Kids also love to use their imaginations and create with cookie cutters. They have even been known to create entire scenes from stories and then retell the stories using play dough- you can’t get more academic than that!
If you’re looking for more specific play dough activities for your little learners, then check out the Ultimate Play Dough Bundle!