How can a play dough recipe turn into a spring fine motor activity? Easy! All you have to do is add in a few creative extras and your child can start building her eye-hand coordination, dexterity and hand/finger muscle control skills.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
Play dough makes the perfect base for fine motor play! Not only can your child roll, pound, pinch, tear and mold it giving her hands a total workout, but she can also use it in plenty of other imaginative ways.
For this activity, we’re going to make a batch of spring green play dough and turn it into a grassy surface. After you cook up the play dough, your child can ‘grow’ her very own garden. Obviously, she’s not going to use real seeds or grow real flowers. For this spring fine motor activity, she’ll get the chance to use a few different methods to make the garden grow.
DIY Play Dough Recipe
Before growing a garden, you need to make the play dough. Keep in mind, this requires cooking. Your child should never go near a hot stove or help with the actual cooking process. But, she certainly can help with the measuring and mixing. This is a bonus opportunity to build math skills as she measures the ingredients and explore science watching how the ingredients combine and change into the dough.
Here’s what you’ll need to make the play dough:
- 2 ½ cups water
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons veggie oil
- 1 cup of salt
- Green food coloring
- Mix all of the ingredients except the food coloring in a large mixing bowl.
- Pour the mix into a pot, put it on the stove over a low heat. Stir the mixture until it forms a doughy consistency. If the mix starts boiling, turn the heat down right away. If the mix seems too watery, continue stirring and heating.
- Drip a few drops of food coloring in and stir thoroughly. Some people like to add the color earlier on, but it will stir through the warm dough just as well. Add less color to make a light green dough, and more to make a vivid hue.
Let the dough cool completely before your child touches it. Keep in mind, it may still be hot on the inside – even if it’s cool on the outside.
Optional: Add a sprinkle of green glitter for an extra sparkle.
Fine Motor Flowers
Now that you have the grassy surface for the garden to grow in, it’s time to make some flowers. There are several different ways your child can work her fine motor skills and get growing! Try:
- Pipe cleaner impressions: Bend pipe cleaners into shapes and press them into the dough to make flower impressions. Remove the pipe cleaners to leave behind a flower shape. Your child will also have the chance to explore shapes and use her critical-thinking skills putting together parts of the flower or shapes to make a whole.
- Pipe cleaner flowers: Your child can also bend pipe cleaners into the flower shapes. Instead of pressing them into the dough, she can push the bottom of the ‘stem’ into the dough and make a growing garden.
- Yarn impressions: This is similar to the pipe cleaner impressions, but easier for younger children who may find the pipe cleaners too sharp or pokey.
- Tissue garden: Tear (another fine motor workout) tissue paper, crumble it and ‘plant’ it in the grass. It will look like little growing flowers.
Along with these ideas you can also give your child real flowers to press into the play dough, make flowers with modeling clay and ‘plant’ them or let your child come up with her own creative idea!
If you’re looking for more fine motor activities, check out these top toddler and preschooler favorites.
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Erica is a mom, educator and parenting writer, with an MS in child development. When she’s not teaching, she’s busy creating kids’ activities for her blog Mini Monets and Mommies.