Early Years

Welcome to Early Years at Blackburn College.

Task 1

How to make play dough and the benefits of play dough for young children.

There are many benefits of sensory play for young children and play dough comes under the umbrella of sensory play.  Sensory play is a term that describes activities that supports a child’s senses, particularly touch and sight.  Sensory play is used with children of all ages including babies.

You should ensure that all health and safety guidelines are followed and ensure the activity is suitable for the child’s age and stage of development.

Play dough is a stimulating and fun activity for children. There are many benefits these include:

Benefits of play dough:

  • Develops a child’s fine motor skills
  • Improves pre-writing skills
  • Helps to develop their creativity and imagination
  • It can have a calming effect
  • Develops a child’s hand - eye coordination
  • Improves their social skills as they may be working with other children
  • Increases their curiosity and knowledge

The malleable (flexibleproperties of play dough make it fun for investigation and exploration as well as secretly building up strength in all the tiny hand muscles and tendons, making them ready for pencil and scissor control later on.

Recipe for play dough:

Makes: 1 coloured ball

Prep: 10 minutes

You will need:

  • 8 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp table salt
  • warm water
  • food colouring
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil


1. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the water, a few drops of food colouring and the oil.

2. Pour the coloured water into the flour mix and bring together with a spoon.

3. Dust a work surface with a little flour and turn out the dough. Knead together for a few minutes to form a smooth, pliable dough. If you want a more intense colour you can work in a few extra drops of food colouring.

4. Store in a plastic sandwich bag or plastic box in the fridge to keep it fresh.

Extension activity stretch and challenge, if you have access to the internet

Here is a YouTube clip which shows extension activities that you can do with play dough to make key rings. You can paint play dough if you bake it so it really is fun for all ages.


Children's development is split into 5 key areas

Physical development: this is when children are using both large and small muscles in their body, for example building muscle strength in their fingers.

Extension task: what does the term fine motor and gross motor skills mean in relation to physical development?

Intellectual development: this is when children are using their thinking skills to solve problems, it also supports their creative thinking.  For example what can I create using the play dough?

Language development: this is when children are building on their communication skills, learning new vocabulary (words) and interacting with others

Emotional development: this is when children learn about how they feel and also how to express their emotions in a suitable way.

Social development: this area of development is when children interact with others, they learn to take turns and share with others.


Task 2

Design a mind map with the different areas of development and within each area of development provide at least 1 example of how play dough can help a child’s learning and development.

For example a child’s physical skills can be developed as they are using the small muscles in their hands to manipulate the dough.

You can use a computer to create the mind map or you can design your own poster if you do not have access to a PC.

Please make sure you check your spelling, grammar and punctuation.  Also make your poster /mind map colourful and make sure that it is well presented. 

When working in a childcare setting anything that is displayed in the classroom has to be well presented with no spelling errors to support a positive learning environment.


Task 3, Case Study

You are a child’s key worker (a key worker is the person in the setting who is responsible for the child’s learning and development) one of the children in your care has emotional and behavioural problems.  The child is on the autistic spectrum.  Think of an activity using play dough that may help a child to feel relaxed and emotionally secure in the setting.

Points to consider

What is the role of a key worker?

Research the meaning of autism and how autism can affect a child’s development?

How can playing with play dough help the child to feel more relaxed? Think about the benefits of play dough from the list above.

Write a paragraph about how you may be able to support the child with the issues that have been raised in the case study, provide examples of how the play dough activity is supporting the child’s needs.  Look at the areas of development listed above to help you with this.

Extension Task

What other ingredients could you add to the play dough to make the activity more sensory, for example think about what a child can see or touch when using dough?  Think about a child who may be partially sighted.

Extra reading and research, visit the National Autistic Society which provides information on Autism.

Completing the tasks

There are 3 tasks for you to complete, try and see which ones you can complete.

What have you learnt today?

  • Name 3 things that you learnt about the benefits of play dough
  • Name 2 areas of development that link to a young child
  • Name something you have learnt about autism

Well done.