Squeezing and rolling playdough is emotionally satisfying and can settle or focus tamariki. Playing with dough supports hand-eye coordination, fine motor muscles and imagination. As you play, introduce action words to increase your child’s vocabulary.

Why do it?

  • Squeezing, rolling and poking playdough can help relieve stress.
  • Handling playdough helps strengthen the fine muscles in the hands, the same ones used for writing, drawing and using tools like scissors and staplers.
  • Playing with playdough is an opportunity to strengthen hand-eye coordination.
  • Playdough presents many pretend-play possibilities and encourages creativity.
  • Playing alongside tamariki gives you opportunities to enrich their language through asking open-ended questions and introducing specific vocabulary — for example the words ‘roll’, ‘pinch’, ‘pat’ and ‘squeeze’.

How to do it

Playdough recipe

Here’s a recipe for cooked playdough. Encourage tamariki to help make the playdough with you.

Mix together:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • ½ cup of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
  • food colouring
  • 1 cup of water

Heat gently and stir until mixture forms a soft ball.

Cool the dough and then knead until smooth.

Wrap it in cling wrap and store in the fridge, or in a tightly covered container.

Play ideas

Once the playdough is ready, let tamariki play with it.

  • Set up an area for the playdough that keeps the mess to one area that you’re okay with — return tamariki back to that area if they start to wander around with the playdough.
  • You could use a big sheet of paper, a plastic tablecloth or tray, an opened-out cardboard box on the floor or on a table, or find a suitable area to do it outside.
  • Give your tamaiti guidelines that will work for you both. For example, ‘Playdough stays on this mat’ or ‘Ka noho ai te kere pokepoke i runga i tēnei whāriki’.
  • Look for some kitchen utensils you might introduce — a garlic press, potato masher, rolling pin, biscuit cutters or plastic cups for making circles. Let them explore the possibilities.
  • Use a few open-ended questions such as, ‘What would you like to make?’ and ‘How could you do that?’
  • Follow your child’s lead and copy what they do.
  • If ideas are needed you could ask, ‘What about making some kai for the toys? What would they like?’
  • When they’ve had enough but want to keep what they’ve made, you can store it in a container with a lid. Otherwise, squeeze it back into a lump and put it in a plastic bag (or container with a lid) and store it in the fridge for next time.

Using more reo Māori

Te reo Māori English
Pat down
To fold
Rolling pin
Sea egg