Intrinsic Muscle Strengthening Play Dough Mat

I wanted to share a resource we’ve had on the website for many years. It’s a simple intrinsic hand strengthening play dough mat. We use this printable play dough mat to build strong pinch and grip strength by targeting the intrinsic muscles of the hands. Intrinsic muscle strength is needed for endurance and dexterity in the hands, so it’s a major factor in fine motor skills.

  • Check out our other free play dough mats that we have on the website for more tools for hand strength.

The intrinsic muscles are the ones within the hands. Rolling balls of play dough works on the intrinsic muscles and builds the development of a tripod grasp, improves arch development of the palm, and encourages use of the skilled side of the hand

I share a lot of play dough activities.  We also have a lot of play dough recipes here on the site. When we get kids involved in making play dough, they are building hand strength and endurance in pinch and grasp, so it’s a win-win. Because, after one makes a batch of playdough, then they must play! And, when we play with play dough, we are building stronger hands. OT professionals love this therapy material! And then there are all of the fine motor activities that go along with the play dough. A blogging friend suggested I do something with 365 days of play dough. I’ve got enough ideas that I could share one a day with you and still not be done!

Intrinsic Hand Strength with Play Dough

Play-Doh isn’t just for fun; it’s a fantastic tool to help your child’s hand strength and fine motor skills. And, that’s why we as occupational therapy providers love it!

By rolling small balls of Play-Doh, kids work on their intrinsic grasp and muscle strength, and they don’t ever realize it. This activity boosts their pinch strength and dexterity. It’s simple yet effective. Just have them use their fingertips on a Play-Doh mat. It’s a playful way to enhance their hand’s intrinsic muscle strength, vital for everyday tasks and their overall development.

Play-Doh is a fantastic tool for your child’s hand strength development. While they roll small balls of Play-Doh, they’re working on intrinsic strengthening of the hand.

We’ve created a simple play dough mat to support this skill. By rolling play dough balls into different sizes with just their finger tips, kids build that strength and dexterity.

These hand intrinsic exercises are crucial for building intrinsic muscle strength in their hands. As they engage in these intrinsic hand muscle exercises, you’ll notice improvements in their grasp, pinch strength, and overall dexterity. It’s a fun, engaging way to support their fine motor skill development.

Play dough is awesome.

It’s awesome for building intrinsic muscle strength.  It’s awesome for working gross motor muscle strength.  It’s awesome for proprioception to the hands.  It’s awesome for working on handwriting, scissor skills, and pencil grasp.  It’s a great treatment tool in Occupational Therapy clinics and it’s a great manipulative in learning activities.

Do you (and your kids) love play dough as much as we do?

I’ve got a creative way to build the intrinsic muscles of the hands using play dough and a play dough mat.  This play mat is designed to work on the muscles needed for a functional pencil grasp and endurance in maintaining that grasp.  It’s designed to work on the dexterity needed for coloring without fatigue.  And it’s designed to be fun for little ones who need to work on these areas.

Be sure to check out this article on how to use emotions playdough mats to support fine motor strength and emotional self regulation.

Hand strengthening intrinsic muscle strengthening with play dough and a free re-usable play dough mat.


This post contains affiliate links.


Hand strengthening intrinsic muscle strengthening with play dough and a free re-usable play dough mat.


Here are more resources for strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the hands:

​Space Play Dough Mat ​

​Astronaut Play Dough Mat ​

​Play Dough City ​

​Ice Cream Play Dough Mat​

​Toy Theme Play Dough Mat ​

​Play Dough Bird Mat​

​Roll and Write Play Dough Mat Bundle​

​Numbers 1-20 Sky/Ground Play Mats​

​A-Z Sky/Ground Play Mats

A few play dough ideas I know you will love:

All the Red Crayons in the Box Play Dough 

Crayon Floam Dough 

Gold, Silver, and Bronze Metallic Crayon Play Dough 

Play Dough Farm 

Play Dough Color Match 

Play Dough Cupcakes

Play Dough Color Match

Play Dough and Rocks Proprioception activity

Crayon Salt Dough 

Patriotic Crayon Salt Dough 

Crayon Shaving Art

How to Use a Play Dough Mat for Intrinsic Hand Strength

To use this play dough mat, you’ll first laminate the paper or slip it into a sheet protector sleeve.  Then, show your child how to fill the circles with play dough by rolling small balls of play dough with the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger.  

There are different sizes of circles on the mat, requiring the child to roll small or large play dough balls.  This encourages more reined intrinsic muscle use.  

You can use the mat in several ways:

  • Allow the child to fill the circles with play dough with random colors.
  • Assign different sized circles to different colors of play dough.  This provides a visual scanning component to the activity.
  • Write numbers or letters in the circles, providing a visual scanning and letter order cognitive component.

The main point is to use those fingertips to roll the play dough into small balls. By encouraging an open thumb webspace and fingers extended at the PIP and DIP joints, with a flexed MCP joints, the intrinsic muscles are are in action.

If you want to see this positioning, place your hand into a “duck bill” shape where the thumb and the tips of the fingertips are touching like a duck opening and closing it’s bill. This is the intrinsic muscles at work.

Free Play Dough Mat for Building Hand Strength

This play mat is available for FREE only for our Play Dough is Awesome newsletter group.  (This is a different email list than our regular subscribers.  If you’re on our subscriber list, you’ll still need to sign up for this one to receive the play dough freebies coming your way!)

Intrinsic Strength Play Dough Mat

    Have fun!

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

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