Looking for a play dough activity (or many) that develop and strengthen fine motor skills? Here, you’ll find playdough activities for fine motor skills, and specifically play dough occupational therapy ideas to strengthen the hands, improve eye-hand coordination, and address underlying skills that kids so very need. These play dough exercises are fun tools for finger strength exercises and grip strength exercises that don’t seem so much like “work”.
You’ll find a lot of fine motor activities here on The OT Toolbox…today we’re sharing fine motor activities with play dough. Whether it’s homemade play dough or store bought, play dough is a great way to build motor skills needed for precision tasks like pencil grasp, scissor skills, precision in buttoning, zippering, or tying shoes? Fine motor play is a great way to build the skills kids need.
occupational therapy fine motor skills
In occupational therapy, fine motor skills are a huge area of consideration. OTs often address fine motor skills and the impact on play, self-care, and other functional skills. A play dough activity is one way to make strengthening fine motor skills fun!
Here are ways to use a fun play dough activity to strengthen small motor skills…let’s use play dough to work those hands!
Speaking of occupational therapy and fine motor skills, using other commonly found materials (play dough being one, there are other items that work little muscles of the hand in OT sessions…playing cards, craft pom poms, beads, and paper clips are some ideas.
Catch up on the latest tools on The OT Toolbox.
- Use other everyday items in your therapy bag to with these fine motor activities with craft pom poms
- These activities and paper clip activities are an easy way to address a variety of fine motor needs on the go.
Fine Motor Activities with Play DOugh
We wanted to share the reasons why play dough exercises are a fine motor power tool. However, you’re not limited to using play dough to gain these benefits. Theraputty exercises or slime exercises can be interchanged with the play dough fine motor exercises.
Here’s the thing: play dough is an easy and effective means for building fine motor skills for preschoolers. The soft and squishy dough provides a tactile sensory challenge with proprioceptive sensory feedback. The bonus is the strengthening of the arches of the hands and precision of grasp.
Fine motor activities like playing with playdough build many fine motor skill areas:
- Precision- Precision occurs with development of grasp when child to use the pads of the index finger, middle finger, and thumb to manipulate objects with opposition.
- Hand strength
- Open thumb web space
- Separation of the sides of the hand
- Finger isolation
Here are all of the intricacies of fine motor skills. Read about the definitions of fine motor skills and how each skill area is needed for tasks like pencil grasp, buttons, and other fine motor tasks.
Playing with play dough builds other skills as well:
Check out our video below for play dough exercises that you can do with a container of play dough. In the video, we walk through specific exercises like making a play dough snake, making a play dough snail, pinching off balls of play dough, finger isolation play dough tasks, how to isolate the thumb with play dough, and resistive tendon glides using play dough exercises.
Follow along with the video for Play Dough exercises to strengthen the hands.
playdough activities for fine motor skills
We’ve covered all of the various ways play dough supports fine motor development. Now, let’s discover how to use play dough for fine motor skills.
Let’s get to those playdough activities for fine motor skills! A tub of play dough has so many options for building fine motor strength and dexterity.
- Roll balls of dough between the thumb and pointer/middle fingers.
- Make a rainbow with rolls of different colors of play dough.
- Use a play dough mat like this ice cream play dough mat and others on this site.
- Make play dough snakes and cut with scissors
- Roll a long rope of play dough and roll it into a cinnamon bun
- Hide beads and have a race to find them
- Create an obstacle course for the fingers with hurdles and jumps
- Spread the play dough out into a pizza. Use scissors to cut it into slices
- Make a small world with hills and mountains for small animal figures
- Make a maze for a ping pong ball. Blow the ball through the maze with a straw
- Make a small keyboard using balls of dough. Press on the play dough balls with one finger
- Make a play dough pie. Pinch the crust, create play dough berries.
- Form letters using the play dough
- Mix water into the play dough for a squishy, messy dough
- Build structures using popsicle sticks and play dough. Add details with feathers scraps of paper, etc
- Make play dough emoji faces
- Roll play dough into a sheet. Cut it with scissors.
- Cut with cookie cutters
- Press google eyes into play dough
- Press buttons into playdough
- Push pegs into play dough
- Press straws into play dough to make circles
- Press kitchen utensils into play dough
- Press feathers into playdough
- Nature sculptures- add leaves, pine cones, acorns, etc.
- Make play dough muffins with muffin tin
- Press rocks into play dough
- Use candles or pipe cleaners and craft sticks to create playdough birthday cakes
- Press craft sticks into play dough to make a STEM fine motor building set
Several of the play dough activities above mentioned using scissors. Here is a resource on types of scissors to start with to address various fine motor needs.
Printable Fine Motor Play Dough Activity
One way to support fine motor skills with play dough is using a printable play dough mat. We have many play dough mats here on the site. These are also available in our Membership Club as well as in our fine motor kits.
What would you add to this list of fine motor activities using play dough?
Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.
Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:
Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:
- Frogs Fine Motor Kit
- Unicorns Fine Motor Kit
- Vehicles Fine Motor Kit
- Apple Fine Motor Kit
- Back to School Kit
- Sports Fine Motor Kit
- Outer Space Fine Motor Kit
- Fairytale Fine Motor Kit
- Plus more in our shop!
Want access to all of these kits…and more being added each month? Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.