Using No-Cook Homemade Play Dough to Target Language: Building Descriptive Vocabulary

Many of the children I see LOVE to play with play dough! You might be thinking, “it’s just play dough, how does that target language?” Well, it’s all in how you use it! I have, and always will, love playing with play dough.

Targeting Language Skills

You get to be creative and silly and there are many language skills you can target, depending on what you use.

One way you can target language is to make different types of play dough to expand your child’s vocabulary through the use of adjectives (describing words), this can then lead to descriptive phrases and sentences. Here is an example of how I did this the other day:

First, gather up all the ingredients, bowls, and instructions on how to make the four different types of play dough.

Next, have your child help make each type of play dough. While making it, you can ask your child what he/she is smelling, what it feels like, what it looks like, etc.

Modelling for your child by saying things like, “Wow, this smells sweet like candy” or, “This play dough feels rough” will help your child learn new words as well as their meaning. Just a tip: Don’t forget rubber gloves for the Kool-Aid and food colouring types, unless you really like rainbow hands!

Here’s how to make your own homemade play dough along with some suggestions for descriptive words you can start practicing with your child!

The Recipe

Sand Play Dough                                                                       Kool-Aid Play Dough

1 cup flour                                                                                            1 cup flour

¼ cup sand                                                                                          ½ pkg. Kool-Aid (mix with wet ingredients)

½ tbsp. of canola oil (or vegetable oil)                                          ½ tbsp. of canola oil (or vegetable oil)

1/3 cup salt                                                                                           1/3 cup salt

1/3 cup warm water                                                                            1/3 cup warm water

Words: Rough, gritty, scratchy                                                       Words: Sweet, smelly, bright


Oatmeal Play Dough                                                                 Coloured, Extra Soft Play Dough

1 cup flour                                                                                             1 cup pastry flour

¼ cup oatmeal                                                                                     ¼ cup sand

½ tbsp. of canola oil (or vegetable oil)                                           ½ tbsp. of canola oil (or vegetable oil)

1/3 cup salt                                                                                           1/3 cup salt

1/3 cup warm water                                                                            1/3 cup warm water

Words: Lumpy, bumpy, chunky                                                       5 drops of food colouring

Words: Soft, silky, smooth, pretty

Keep it Colourful

Mix the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls. Add the dry ingredients carefully to the wet ingredients and stir until solid (if too sticky, add more flour; if too dry, add a little water).

Knead the dough until thoroughly mixed. The Kool-Aid and food colouring can stain clothing and skin when first mixing, use gloves if possible. You can also add food colouring to Sand and Oatmeal play dough to keep things colourful!

Let us know what creative describing words your children came up with!

LynseyWilson-220Lynsey Wilson is a Communication Disorders assistant with experience treating a wide range of clients with varying ages and disorders. She also has her Early Childhood Educator certificate and specializes in working with pediatric clients. Lynsey enjoys working with a variety of age groups to keep her on her toes!


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