Ready-To-Use Teaching Ideas: Cooking/Art


  • mixing bowl
  • measuring cup
  • measuring spoons
  • mixing spoon
  • play dough tools: cookie cutters, small wooden blocks, craft sticks, small pegs, buttons, rubber stamps, and a garlic press
  • ingredients to make play dough

Objective: Children will learn how basic cooking ingredients can be used to make play dough while bolstering math learning, creative thinking, and sensory and fine-motor development.

In Advance: Gather your ingredients for your play dough recipe: 3 cups flour, 3 cups water, 1 cup salt, 3 tablespoons oil, and food coloring.


1. Invite children to join you at the table to prepare play dough. Provide opportunities for each child to measure, pour, or mix one or more of the ingredients. Use descriptive language as you engage the children in this activity. Ask children to describe what changes occur as they mix water with the flour. Encourage them to touch the mixture and describe what it feels like. How does the mixture change when salt and oil are added?

2. When all the ingredients have been mixed together, ask the children to select one color for the play dough. You may wish to divide the mixture into two or three bowls and then add a different color to each.

3. Give the children a handful of play dough each and access to the suggested tools. Young children may enjoy rolling their play dough or using cookie cutters and objects they can poke into the play dough. Some children may need assistance as they learn how to manipulate the play dough and use the tools.

4. Play dough can be kept for several days in an airtight container. The children's creations can be left out to harden.

Remember: While younger children may be content creating different textures with rubber stamps, a garlic press, and so on, older children may want to use the dough to make sculptures or objects.

Curriculum Connection

Pretend Play: Children love using play dough to create birthday cakes and food items. Provide children with play dough that they can use in their pretend-play area. Encourage them to use the play dough to prepare a special meal or special event such as a play dough "feast."  

This activity originally appeared in the November, 1999 issue of Early Childhood Today.