Pre-K activities, learning games, crafts, and printables


Babies and creativity - PartVII

Manipulating dough


It can be very interesting to let babies manipulate modeling dough on their own. Babies must learn to knead, roll, and tear the dough. This is a good way to introduce the basics of arts & crafts and develop fine motor skills.


For this reason, I suggest you begin by letting babies manipulate the dough without any complimentary tools at first. These tools are often sold with modeling dough but objects which may be used to play with modeling dough can be added later on in the activity as a variation.


Different types of modeling dough

Of course, your choice of modeling dough must be non-toxic, regardless if it is store-bought or homemade.


Here is the recipe I use:




1 cup of flour
½ cup of salt
2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
1 tablespoon of oil
1 cup of water
Food coloring


Dissolve salt in water over heat. Add food coloring. Combine flour and cream of tartar together. Heat oil and combine with flour, stirring. Pour coloured water into mixture, stirring vigorously. Remove from heat and knead dough. Store dough in a plastic bag.


Personally, I combine the ingredients and stir over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. I then remove from heat and add food coloring. I wear gloves to knead the dough.


If the babies in your group no longer put things in their mouth, you may add sparkles or essence to your modeling dough.


A trick some caregivers use for babies who have a tendency to put things in their mouth is to leave the modeling dough in a small Ziploc bag. Let babies manipulate the dough in the bag. I prefer to wait until babies understand that they mustn't put modeling dough in their mouth and use it without the bag. Giving babies their pacifier can limit the quantity of modeling dough they will eat!


Visit the creative recipe section on educatall for other modeling dough recipes.

Salt dough is also great to immortalize a child's masterpiece. The thicker the finished product is, the longer it will take to dry! You can cook it in the oven at 300⁰F. Paint the creations.


Salt dough

2 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
1 cup of water
Food coloring


Mix well. This dough can be left out to dry when done.


Complimentary tools

Do not forget to let babies manipulate modeling dough without tools first.


We often forget that modeling dough is versatile. It can be used in many different ways depending on the current theme. It is great for developing creativity if you let them explore it on their own terms.


Here are a few examples:

  • • Pasta which can be pricked into modeling dough. Great for three-dimensional creations!
  • • Small plastic flowers with stems.
  • • Plastic animal figurines: make animal tracks, hide the animals in the modeling dough.
  • • Small cars: make tire tracks with the wheels.
  • • Large wiggly eyes.
  • • Wooden sticks.
  • • Plastic drinking straws.
  • • Large rocks or stones children collected while taking a walk or other elements of nature.
  • • Use plastic plates, dishes, and utensils or your toy toolbox to encourage role play.
  • • With older babies: let them flatten modeling dough on a sheet of paper. Next, have them paint over the paper. Remove the modeling dough and discover the masterpiece (the sheet remains white where there was modeling dough).

Have fun and look for new variations to explore modeling dough even further!


Chantal Milette

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