Sensory Activity: DIY Playdough

A collage of containing 3 rectangles: (Left to Right) First and second rectangle: Toddler plays with homemade play dough 3. ingredients for making play dough.

March 28, 2022

Sensory Stimulating Activity for Kids

From the moment a baby is born, children use their senses to explore the world around them. They do it every time they taste, smell, touch, see, move or hear. We refer to this phase of development as the sensorimotor stage.

It’s common for both babies and younger children to touch everything! Infants gum their hands (and feet), track light with their eyes, and rub fabrics. Toddlers put anything they can reach in their mouths. They dance to music and climb on… everything! This exploration provides the foundation for children to complete more complex tasks.

In this activity from our Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program, we’ll stimulate all of the senses with non-toxic modeling clay. Playdough is important in development as it can aid in fine motor skills, increases creativity, helps kids tolerate different textures, and can even help calm a frustrated or anxious child.

Playdough Materials and How-To

This activity can help in several areas of the child's development, in addition to providing quality time with the parents or other caregiver. You’ll need to get a few inexpensive household ingredients, including:

6 large marshmallows

3 tablespoons of corn starch

2 teaspoons of coconut oil/vegetable oil

Food coloring of choice

Microwave-safe bowl

Spoon to mix everything


Combine all the ingredients (6 large marshmallows, 3 tbsp of corn starch, 2 tsp coconut oil/vegetable oil, and a few drops of food coloring) together in the microwave-safe container and heat for 30 seconds in a microwave. Stir the mixture with a spoon as much as possible. Once it cools off and you can’t stir it with a spoon anymore, finish mixing the dough with your hands. If it’s still too sticky, you can add a little bit of cornstarch to your hands and roll the dough.

You can expand this activity by bringing in other items from around the kitchen. Kids can press dry cereal or a spoon into the dough. If you have shaped noodles, you can press patterns into the dough and feel different textures. What else can you press into the dough? A drop of vanilla or lavender extract can stimulate the senses even further!

A note on modifications:

Many kids don't like to touch sticky textures and if your child is sensitive to sticky, soft or new textures, try putting the dough in a Ziploc bag to let them explore it gradually and safely. Give kids space and don’t force a new texture too quickly. You can model for them that it’s ok by showing them, letting them poke, smell and observe as much as they need.

Benefits of Engaging the Senses

When you combine play and sensory integration, the results are amazing! With one simple at-home activity you’re supporting language development, fine and gross motor skills, cognitive growth, social interaction, memory and problem solving. If your child struggles to process incoming sensations (things like loud noises, crowded places, and tags on clothing), activities that stimulate the senses in a safe and non-threatening way can be a great way to manage those fears and anxieties.

Promote language development

Include your child to help gather the ingredients. Count the marshmallows as you put them in the bowl. Reference or label the materials that you’ll use and have the child repeat after you to help build their vocabulary.

Practice turn-taking and bonding

This activity also helps a child learn to follow instructions. Be sure to praise and celebrate as the child follows the steps and participates. Ask for their choice of color. You can also get older kids to help with measuring and stirring. Use this time to share memories from your childhood of exploring a new texture or a kitchen mishap, or a time you helped your parents with cooking or baking.

Therapists in our ECI programs use fun, age-appropriate activities to promote child development and to educate parents. By using simple household items, you can support your child’s growth no matter where they are on their journey!

If you have concerns about your child’s development send us a message or fill out a service request form. You can find the correct ECI program for you by putting your zipcode in the Health and Human Services search tool, or calling the HHS Office of the Ombudsman at 877-787-8999, select a language, then select Option 3.


Any Baby Can works with parents to address developmental concerns within the first three years.

Any Baby Can works with parents to address developmental concerns within the first three years.

Any Baby Can works with parents to address developmental concerns within the first three years.


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