Building fine motor skills is important for a preschooler’s development. Here are 4 fun activities with play dough to get you started.

YMCA preschool


YMCA Preschool: 4 Play Dough Activities to Help Build Fine Motor Skills

Most kids love to play with play dough. While it's great to allow them the freedom and creativity to play on their own, you can also turn this into a learning activity.

Playing with play dough is a great way for kids to develop fine motor skills. These motor skills such as feeding themselves, grasping toys, buttoning and zipping clothes, writing, drawing, helping children gain independence and succeed in YMCA Preschool. 

Whether you choose to make your own play dough or purchase it from the store, you can use these four play dough activities to help your kids build fine motor skills.


1. Shape and Scoop

This activity will help your child develop finger strength and dexterity while learning how to better grasp utensils. The concept is simple:

·   Kids use their index fingers, middle fingers and thumbs to roll the play dough into tiny balls.

·   Next, they use a spoon to scoop the play dough into a bowl.

Take a moment to demonstrate how to make the play dough balls. Observing the way that you move your fingers and dough will help your child get a better grasp of the concept.

You can use any color play dough you like. You’ll also need a bowl and spoon. Plastic works best because it’s lightweight and easy to handle.


2. Hide and Seek

If you’re looking for a group play dough activity, hide and seek is a great option. With this activity, one child will be hiding a small object inside of the play dough, and the other kids will have to find them.

This fun group activity will help children improve their hand strength and finger coordination.

For this activity, you’ll need:

·   Play dough.

·   Small objects, such as plastic animals, marbles or pegs.

·   Child-safe scissors.

Place the play dough at the center of the table along with the small objects. Have the children use the child-safe scissors to cut the dough into smaller pieces. This will make it easier to hide and find the objects.

When finding objects, have the kids close their eyes and use their fingers to find the objects hidden inside.

Help the kids take turns hiding and finding the objects.


3. Shape Outlines

Creating play dough shape outlines is a fun way to help kids build their fine motor skills while learning their shapes.

For this activity, you’ll need:

·   Colored play dough

·   Shape mats (paper with shape outlines and names)

Through this activity, kids will gain hand and finger strength and coordination. Have them manipulate the play dough to match the outline of the shape. They should be using their thumb, index and middle fingers to roll and shape the dough into cylinders that can be used to create the outlines of the shapes on the mats.


4. Sugar Cookie Play Dough

If your kids love cookies or baking, they’ll love this activity. Through rolling, kneading and shape-cutting, kids will develop hand strength and coordination.

For this activity, you’ll need:

·   Play dough

·   Rolling pin

·   Cookie cutters

·   Silicone mat for rolling

Start with a large ball of play dough. Demonstrate and help your child use the rolling pin to roll the dough flat (to about 1/2" thick). Once flattened, use the cookie cutters to cut the play dough into shapes – just like real cookies.

Once they get the hang of it, let them try it on their own. Make sure to explain that play dough cookies aren’t real cookies.

These four play dough activities are not only fun, but also a great way to help kids develop their fine motor skills. It is crucial for kids to master these skills heading into preschool.

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