Playdough Play For 1 Year Olds {Easy Set Up, Hands On Learning}

There’s a lot of reasons why I love playdough play.

  • It’s one of those activities that doesn’t require any special set up.
  • You make playdough once and use and reuse it for up to 6 months!
  • You can add variety, novelty and make it a themed activity simply by changing the prompts.
  • It’s very little mess and easy clean sensory play. Playdough we use doesn’t stick to the surfaces and can be easily removed. If you forget to clean it immediately it’ll dry up a little bit which makes it even easier to clean up.
  • Playdough play keeps my 15 months old engaged for well more than any other kind of activities. Probably the only close competitor is water play 🙂
  • He would play with playdough for good 40 minutes and a lot of times going well over an hour.
  • It’s a quick sensory play for all year round, indoors and outdoors.
  • It’s an engaging play for different age groups and an awesome activity for siblings.

Besides of all those “mom” conveniences playdough play does wonders for your little one development on many levels. Let’s take a look.

Benefits of Play Dough Play

  1. Manipulating the dough, pinching, squeezing, rolling, cutting smashing is a fine motor work in and of itself. It strengthens hand muscles, improves pincer grasp which all set a groundwork for holding a pen and using scissors – important pre-writing skills.
  2. Incorporating some prompts with playdough such as stamps, rolling pins, cutters etc helps your little one work on their hand eye coordination by using those tools and object together with playdough.
  3. Change the prompts and you can have a different  theme activity depending on the season, book or your child interest, This also promotes creativity and imagination.
  4. Playdough play has a calming effect. Such hands-on activity helps little ones channel out their stress and big emotions and sooth. Remember, children are not able to tell you in a direct way if they had a bad day, they do it through play. Do playdough activity together to connect even more. 
  5. Lots of teaching and learning opportunities. Depending on the set up and the props can teach your little one colors, shapes, language (naming the objects), numbers, letters, nature, holidays and a lot more!

This activity is not suitable for mouthing babies. Adult close supervision is required at all times.
Remove playdough immediately after use in a secure place. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Here’s one of our favorite Playdough Set Ups

Once I have the playdough ready it literally takes me 2 minutes to prepare this activity for endless fun.

We first tried it at about 14 months and use it on regular basis at least twice a month.

Feel free to enhance the tools and add more color playdough.

For young toddlers I strongly suggest to keep it simple and use just 1 playdough color and a couple of different props, preferably related to each other.

Here’s what we used for this simple Playdough Play:

  • Single color playdough (see the recipe below)
  • 3 cookie cutters
  • 2 walnuts
  • Plastic dough scraper
  • Small wooden rolling pin
  • Ice cream stick
  • DIY cork stamps
  • Large cutting board placed on a child size table
Yield: 1 playdough ball

No Cook Playdough Recipe

Super simple, no cook playdough recipe that lasts 6 months!

Prep Time 3 minutes
Total Time 3 minutes


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • Food coloring of your choice


    1. In a mixing bowl add flour, salt and cream of tartar. Mix well.
    2. Add vegetable oil. Mix again
    3. In boiling water dissolve food coloring of your choice.
    4. Add colored boiling water to the mix in the bowl. Combine with a spatula.
    5. Let the dough cool slight to be manageable with hands. Knead until it’s not longer sticky.
    6. Wait for the dough to cool completely.
    7. Wrap in a plastic wrap and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

How To Play

Arrange all the props on a tray.

Set the tray and a small ball of the playdough on a cutting board.

Show your little one things that he can do using the tools and the playdough.

Close supervision of an adult within arm reach is required at all times.

I also continuously remind him throughout the play that

“Playdough is for your hands, not for your mouth”

“Playdough stays on the table/cutting board”

“We don’t put this in the mouth” 

You get the idea 🙂

If you see things are getting out of control aka constant attempts to taste/eat the dough stop the activity and try it again in a few weeks.

These DIY playdough stamps were really a hit 😊

These are cookie cutters in action. We used square, heart and flower shape.

They come from the IKEA cookie cutter set of 14 pieces so I can swap them with other shapes next time we do this activity.

But most favorite playdough tool was a dough scraper. My little one spent almost 20 minutes cutting and rearranging the dough. And I can see this is a grate prep activity before introducing other cutting tools.

There you have it, a simple, fun, developmental activity for young toddlers + that requires almost zero set up.

Think you’ll give it a try? 🙂

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