Homemade Monday: Practicing letters and numbers with playdough

One of my favorite ways to laugh, play, and read is to use playdough. I try to incorporate it into a lesson, program, or storytime as much as I can. (Last week, I used it to make a volcano for a school literacy night!) Playdough is great as an early literacy tool because children can form shapes including letters and numbers with the dough and exercise the small muscles in their hands and fingers. This gets them ready to start holding writing utensils like crayons and pencils. It also helps develop creativity and imagination.


You may be wondering…how would challenging my child’s imagination or expanding his creativity really help him read? When your child begins to pretend an object represents something else (for instance, his hand can be a phone or a block can be a train), he is beginning to understand symbols. This leads to the idea that letters are just symbols for sounds. And those sounds create words. So playing pretend is a great way to begin the reading process. Using playdough is just one way to do this.

Do you remember playing with the Play-Doh brand playdough? Opening the container, squishing your fingers inside to squeeze out the dough, and then trying your best not to mix the colors–or maybe you liked to combine colors to see what would happen. It had its own unique smell. I can’t guarantee you’ll acheive that smell with these recipes, but you will have some inexpensive, beautiful playdough that’s edible but definitely not desirable. Let me know which one is your favorite to make! Right now, the Jell-O version is my favorite.

Basic No-Cook Playdough Recipe
2 cups plain flour
1 cup salt
1 cup cold water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cream of tartar (optional)
food coloring

It’s simple! Just mix together the flour and salt, then add the rest of the ingredients slowly pouring water in one half cup at a time. Knead the dough first, and then separate it into balls so that you can add different colors of food dyes. After you add the food coloring, you may need to dust a little more flour over the dough to get it back to the right consistency. Store in an air-tight container.


Jell-O No-Cook Playdough Recipe
4 to 5 cups plain flour
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 –3oz. pack of Jell-O Gelatin

Mix together 2 cups of flour, salt, cream of tartar, oil, and Jell-O. Slowly add water and stir until combined. Begin adding rest of flour one cup at a time. After adding three cups of flour, then turn out the dough onto a floured countertop and knead, continuing to add flour until the dough is not sticky. Store in an air-tight container.
Adapted from: http://www.modernparentsmessykids.com/2012/05/play-dough.html


Kool-Aid No-Cook Playdough Recipe
1 cup plain flour
½ cup salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pack unsweetened Kool-Aid
1 cup boiling water

While water is heating, mix all other ingredients in a bowl. Add boiling water and mix with a sturdy spoon. Allow to cool. Store in an air-tight container.

These blogs have created free, downloadable mats you can use to help your child begin to form letters and numbers with playdough.


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