The Best ECE Approved Play Dough Recipe for Sensory Play

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Play dough is such a fun way to engage in sensory play. Children love it. Plus with my favourite play dough recipe you can make it at home and it will last for weeks. There are so many benefits to playing with play dough and the list only grows when you make it yourself.

Why I Love This Play Dough Recipe

As an Early Childhood Educator (ECE) I have tried countless play dough recipes and this one is my absolute favourite. I find that many of the recipes that call for salt can leave a grainy texture. While this is not always a bad thing during sensory play it just isn’t my preference. I prefer a smooth play dough like what you get with this recipe.

play dough designs

Additionally, this is a no-cook play dough recipe which makes it so easy to let children participate in making it. This is especially true with toddlers who are often very eager to help but still learning to follow directions. They can help with all the steps in making a batch without you worrying about boiling water or a hot stove.

Lastly there is no need to refrigerate the play dough, you just need to store it in a tightly sealed container. A simple and easy recipe that doesn’t take up space in your fridge.

Benefits of Play Dough on Child Development

As mentioned earlier there are numerous benefits on child development when playing with play dough. Not only does play dough support sensory development but all other areas of development as well. This is why play dough is a must have activity during the early years. Here are some of the ways it can support physical, social, emotional, language, and cognitive development.

  • Playing with play dough is a great sensory activity for children. It also helps to refine fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination.
  • Play dough supports emotional development through self-regulation, self-expression and engaging creativity.
  • It gives children the opportunity to explore shapes, sizes and other math concepts such as counting and seriating.
  • Children use representation skills when they manipulate the play dough to express their ideas, feelings and experiences.
  • Language development can be supported through expanding vocabulary, conversing with others, using play dough to create stories or retell stories.
  • When playing with others, play dough can also increase social skills through co-operating, helping others, interacting respectfully and conflict resolution.

Keep in mind that the age and developmental level of your child will determine which skills are being used and supported.

No-cook Play Dough Recipe

When stored in an airtight container this play dough will last for weeks, even months before starting to dry out.

What you need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup salt
  • 1 Tbsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup cold water
  • food colouring
  • 1 Tbsp oil


  • Mix together flour, salt and cream of tartar.
  • Add food colouring to water and stir. This will create a more even distribution of the food colouring.
  • Add water mixture and oil to dry ingredients and mix with your hands until well combined.
  • If mixture is dry and crumbly add more water until you get a better consistency. If mixture is too wet add more flour.
  • Store in an airtight container.

Download Play Dough Recipe Here

For Something Extra:

  • You can also add other items to the play dough to increase the sensory experience such as essential oils, herbs, or spices for scent.
  • To change the texture add oats, rice, dried peas or other items you have available.
  • Glitter is always popular but I personally never use it because I don’t like glitter.

Remember that these are all just suggestions and not mandatory for play dough. Only try what you are comfortable with. Children will play with and enjoy even a plain batch of play dough with no food colouring or extra items.

How to Play With Play Dough

There are so many ways to play. Squish, roll, poke and sculpt play dough. Use kitchen items such as a rolling pin, cookie cutters and trays. Try adding trucks, animal figurines or other toys to explore the play dough.

play dough cookie cutters

Buttons and other loose parts are a excellent addition for children to explore their imagination. You can even add flowers or other items from nature.

A couple of my daughters favourite ways to use play dough are to practice cutting with scissors by rolling out the play dough and cutting into small pieces. Another is using the play dough to make a garden and planting chickpeas as seeds or sometimes pretending to plant trees. Most often she uses to play dough as muffin batter and makes muffins in her play kitchen.

Let your child use their imagination to play and explore with play dough. The possibilities are limitless. This is why play dough has always been a go to activity for me. I find it to be such a simple way to engage children in sensory play. We use play dough nearly every day in our home. Not only is it beneficial for children but I find it to be a calming and relaxing activity as well.

Play dough isn’t for everyone though. Many children can differ in their preferences for sensory play. If you find your child has no interest, don’t force it. Try one of these alternative sensory activities instead and maybe come back to play dough in a few months. Preferences can always change.

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