Prep: 5 Minutes / Activity Time: 5-10 Minutes

How can you help your child develop strength and control in her hands, fingers and wrists that will be needed for future use with writing tools? Play dough is a great way to go! Your child will certainly give his fine motor muscles a real workout as she pounds, pinches and pokes in the fun dough. Who can forget that familiar scent of store bought dough? You can purchase play dough or find recipes online to make your own version of play dough at home. If your child is still regularly putting things in his mouth, wait until he is a little older to introduce this activity.

  • Play dough (store-bought or homemade)

Step 1: Place a plastic dropcloth or newspapers under the table for easy clean up.

Step 2: Sit at the table with your child and introduce the play dough. Talk about how it looks, smells and feels. Demonstrate how to pound, pinch and poke. You might want to create a little chant as you do. For example:

I have something new for us to try today. Look, this is blue play dough. Can you smell it? If you close your hand like this and make a fist, you can pound it! See how it flattened out like a pancake. If you use your finger and thumb, like this, you can pinch off pieces. Watch what happens if we use just our pointer finger. Look, we can poke holes in it! Now, can you squish it back together?

It’s fun to pound, pound, pound! (You might use hand motions for pounding, pinching and poking.)

I can see you pinch, pinch, pinch!

Show me how you poke, poke, poke!

Together we can pound, pinch and poke!

Step 3: As your child manipulates the dough, think of all the new words you can expose him to (e.g., squeeze, pull, pat, stretch, pound, pinch, poke). You might even try adding sound effects to the motions (e.g., boom, boom for pounding; bing, bing for pinching; or boop, boop for poking). 

Step 4: If you choose to make your own play dough, be sure to involve your child in the process. He will enjoy helping to measure, mix and watch the ingredients transform into fun dough!