Let’s learn through play – fine motor skills edition

Looking for some fun activities to do with your little ones this week that are not only fun but actually have a huge developmental impact too?

Well we have some amazing activities in store for you, they are created by an Occupational Therapist and Early Years/Foundation Phase Teacher Bellala and have been put in practice in their therapy and classrooms as well as in our homes, the little ones just love them!

The idea of this blog post is to help you provide the child with verbal and visual cues to assist with ideation.  Ideation forms part of the planning process and this is important as it is the first step of coming up with a plan.  By asking certain questions or by placing equipment strategically, this can assist the child to further their plans independently.  If you find that the child struggles with following an instruction, guide them by providing the first step in the process only to determine whether they can continue planning independently. If the instructions are too easy for the child to do, add additional instructions which will make the activity more of a challenge.  

For all of these tasks you will need the following items to start:
– a Dough Animal play kit (if you don’t have a play kit you can also just use a pot of play dough)
– small items from around the house/garden – don’t worry you’ll be collecting these within the activity.

This week’s activities have a focus on fine motor skills, the tactile system, bilateral coordination, letter formation and spatial skills.

1. Hide & Seek


You can start this activity off by doing a little treasure hunt either outside in the garden, around the house, in the toy box or you can pre select a number of small objects for this task. Keep these objects small, giving the child this extra task of size is great for spatial skills awareness.

The idea is to hide objects in the play dough and ask the child to find them using only their sense of touch, working on their tactile system.

If you have number of different objects, you can add another task on top of this by having them close their eyes when feeling for the objects and to guess which object they are holding, before opening their eyes to see if they are correct.

It’s so much fun that you’ll be covering and uncovering objects all day.

2. Learning About Pressure


For this activity you’ll need one of our cookie cutters. Our cookie cutters are not only great for play dough fun but you can also use them for creating shapes in other craft projects, and even for baking biscuits.

So you’ll ask the child to take the cutter and press it down using two hands. They’ll practice pressing down hard and pressing softly with the cutter and then you’ll discuss what happens with light versus hard pressure.

Does light pressure cut right through the play dough?

Does hard pressure make a new shape in the play dough?

If you don’t have a cookie cutter, you can also use your dough pot or lid with the hollow side facing down.

3. Fun Way to Spell


Find a small object with a blunt point for this next one. Our favourite is a stick from the garden or some small stones.

Use the small object to indent on the play dough to practice the alphabet from A-Z. You can do this by placing small objects like stones in the letter formation or by using a sharper object like a stick to indent in thee play dough. Practice saying the letters out loud as you do this activity.

You can then move on to spelling out their name, you can help by doing your own play dough indentation or by writing with a marker on paper.


4. Memory Game

If you kept your small objects from the first activity, you can use them for this activity, if not, then it’s time for another fun treasure hunt, yay!

Place all the treasures including favourite small toys into your Dough Animal bag or a pillow slip if you don’t have a bag. Make sure your little one knows what they are putting in the bag, you can have a conversation about each object, how it smells, looks, what it feels like and what it does. 

Then, ask the child to find an item in the bag by only feeling with their hand.  This is a great activity for memory as well as tactile development.

5. Time for a Puzzle

We all love puzzles, so we’ve created a fun puzzle activity using your Childs favourite cookie cutter shape or you can use a cup/bowl to create the shape if you don’t have any cutters.

Press the cutter into the play dough to create the shape. Then ask the child to cut up the shape into 4 parts using a blunt bread knife or a dough cutter. 

Then you need to change the order of the pieces and ask the child to put the pieces back together like a puzzle.  


That's it! Loads of fun while learning through play.

And remember, that each of these activities, although they may seem simple, they are extremely stimulating and can take a lot of focus and attention for a little one to achieve.

You don’t need to do them all in one sitting but rather space them out over the week for 5 days of fun.

If you feel your little one needs a break, have them just play with the dough and objects in front of them without instruction, or they can create their own game.

The key to learning is play!

Make sure to check back for more activities, or sign up to our newsletter!

The 6 Best Kids Party Themes to do in 2023

Here at Dough Animal we LOVE a party, we love attending them, we love celebrating them and most of all we love being a part of them. 

One of our favourite things to do in our HQ is create all the custom orders we get through for custom play dough party favours. They make the cutest and most unique favours to give your guests in their party bags or on a table on their way out that they can play with long after the party has ended. There are so many interesting themes, so many customer favourites, and we get a big insight into the latest trends our little ones are obsessing over., so we thought we’d share a few (although of course there are many Frozen, Barbie, Peppa Pig, Spiderman etc themes too) of our favourites.

1. Boho Rainbow

SO we do love a brightly coloured rainbow theme but the trend on the town is a muted boho rainbow with all the macrame frills, stretched rainbow arches and soft bohemian touches, think feathers, bean bags, super chilled and laid back.

The colours to include would be earthy reds, oranges and yellows with some pinks and purples to bring together the full look.

Some activities to do on the day:

– pin the star on the rainbow

– colouring in sheet and all the colours of the rainbow crayons

– play dough station to make play dough rainbows

– for older kids, make rainbow bracelet

2. Two The Moon (In Two Space)

This theme can totally be done for any age but we especially love the play on words for a second birthday so if you have a little two-year-old-to-be then make sure to save this one.

You can literally go to space with the planet decorations, from balloon planets, paper planets, cardboard cutouts and tinfoil wrapped balls, or create one massive centre piece that just steals the show.

Our favourites are moon cake snacks (dipped Oreos) and blue popcorn in a silver cupcake holder as space food!

Some activities to do on the day:

– bowls with some space themed balls

– space sand making with crystals, sprinkles, coloured sand (all edible of course)

– paper mache planets

– create your own space world with play dough (we actually do space themed play dough or you can order custom from us here). 

3. Ice Cream Parlour

We can literally eat this party up, it looks delicious and full of flavour. What little one could resist an ice cream party? Complete with a retro ice cream cake perhaps? Mind you I never had an ice cream cake and I need to make this happen before I turn 40!

You can go all out with this one, from a help-yourself toppings station, balloon and paper cone DIY ice cream decorations, Ice cream cupcakes and even a retro ice cream cart, the ideas are endless.

Summer babes are so lucky, aren’t they!

Activities to do on the day:

– toss a ball pond ball through the ice cream holes (cardboard cut out)

– toppings station to decorate your own ice creams

– we assume this party would be in the summer so some watersports like a slip and slide, crazy daisy sprinkler or water balloon fights would be great options

– cherry on a spoon race

4. Get Your Surf On (Under the Sea, Ocean, Beach)

The most flexible theme of the year is the ocean related theme which can be mermaids, surf shack, beach party, pool party, under the sea or which ever fun way you’d like. We love a mixture and our favourite elements from the images above would have to be the sand castle cake, the small details in the algae up the wall, the scalloped table cloth and the amazing floating sharks above the gazebo which give such a great effect of being under water.

Some activities to do on the day: 

– Build an under the sea world using play dough – we sell a cute under the sea play kit which also happens to be our best seller. You can pick them up here.

– surfs up – walk along a plant and make sure you can balance like you’re on a surf board.

– dance party – can you move your arms like an octopus, swim like a fish, spread out like a starfish…

– using paint and glitter, paint some sea shells

5. Dinosaur's in the Wild

Okay so there’s a dinosaur party and then there’s a pink dinosaur party and we’re here for both (although I love pink so I’m right in there with the pink dino tail!)

We love the small touches of an explorer hat customised with each child’s name, the gold spray painted dino toys as decor, the digging sand pit for little palaeontologists (this big word was taught to me by my 6 year old by the way) and dino footprints cut out of paper!

However our absolute favourite, and this works for any animal theme (puppy, kitty, safari etc) is the Adopt A Dino station where you can take a dino home!

Some activities to do on the day: 
– save the dinos from the ice (you can prepare this by freezing ice blocks half way, popping a dino in and filling with water and then refreezing or pop water and a small dino toy into a balloon and freeze.

– dino tail dance 

– excavation site with faux bones in a sand pit, dusting tools and magnifying glasses

– dino painting on canvas – name your dino, talk about what they eat, how they sound and show how they walk

6. Daisies

Flowers? As a theme? Why not!

We love picking them, looking at them, smelling them and wearing theme, so why not make a day all about them, plus they make the cutest decorations, thinking daisy balloons, daisy paper plates and maybe even some real daisies? The best part is, this is the easiest DIY so get your craft on and make this gorgeous theme a reality!

Some activities to do on the day:

– flower crown making with real daisies

– flower garden potting with Dough Animal Flower Garden Play Kit’s these can be on a craft table or for each kid to take home. You can get them here.

– move on from craft gardens and plant some real daisy seeds in a pot to take home

– create an art piece using either real or paper petals


Looking for party favours?


Our play dough kits come in big and small sizes, perfect for your guests to enjoy long after the party is over.

We can also create a custom single dough pot with a label to match your theme that you can add to a party bag for your guests – get in touch.

How to have the perfect market stall

We have wanted to do a market in the UK for quite some time now, I mean it’s only been just over 3 whole years since we started Dough Animal and it has also been 3 years since the last Barnes Fair (due to COVID), the fair that sparked our thirst to have a market stall of our own.

We checked the Barnes Community Associations website every week for months at the start of this year, waiting to see if they’d be announcing the return of the fair this year, and we were delighted when we saw that they were, and that they were open to some new small businesses, given the scale of the fair grew to over 300 stalls this year.

It was go time, we spent every late night after our 9-5 creating stock, making dough, labelling, packaging and thinking about all the things we might need for our first fair.

We were a bit worried, would we have enough stock, will our decision to go cashless effect our sales, will our stall look on brand enough, will we attract customers…all the questions, worries and thought spiralled through our minds ahead of the fair – but we can tell you now, 2 whole days after the fair that it all went smoother than we could have imagined, there wasn’t a single hiccup, our store looked beautiful and we attracted every passer by.

Here’s what we packed:

  • Foldable trestle table (for storage after and easy to transport)
  • Pop up gazebo (for easy installation – min 2 people required)
  • Large sign to tie onto the back of the gazebo – this was the only signage we had and loved it – also reusable
  • Stand for our products 
  • Table Cloth
  • Bunting – this really made the whole stall stand out
  • Some storage bowls, boxes and stands from IKEA
  • Card reader as we were cashless – this was SO easy to install, setup and use – we really loved it and it changed the market experience, we also found that every single customer expected to pay by card so we made the right decision to go cashless.
  • Gift bags for purchases – people were quite surprised that we had gift bags – we also popped in a card into each bag with our details website and 10% off their next order.
  • Kids play table, chairs and some play dough – we’ll talk more about this.

Our best idea ever?

We added a kids play table and chairs to the side of our stand which had loads of play dough and play tools on it, we also made a rather large sign using our Cricut that said “PLAY AREA” and this really drew people in. The play table was busy the entire day from 9:30-5:30 with loads of kids playing play dough, parents relaxing on the bench and families meeting each other.

95% of the parents who’s kids played at the table, bought products, and some whose kids played for 20+ mins even came back to buy more dough as they never realised just how much their child would enjoy it.

It was so lovely to see so many little ones engrossed in play, learning through play and communicating with each other and their parents about their interesting builds. This is exactly what our brand is about, helping kids learn through play, how important play is, and for their parents to have time to sit down, breathe and relax, but also to take in their childs interactions and understand their processes.

Will we be doing a market again? Most definitely. We learnt so much, met such amazing people, and had a great day.

Let’s make some homemade stampers using simple kitchen pantry materials

Skills learned:
Sensory play, Fine motor skills, Creativity, Concentration

As we are still pretty much in lockdown and many kids are still at home, you may be the kind of parent that gave up on home schooling a long time ago already and letting the kids learn through playing and learning as they go, or you may be absolutely loving being teacher at the moment and have a weeks worth of activities planned every Sunday.

Well no matter which parent you are, you’ll love this easy and fun activity using only kitchen pantry items – your kids fav Mac and Cheese pasta and clean ice lolly sticks from the recent heatwave, oh and of course some play dough but if you don’t already have you can get some here.

What you'll need

Dry macaroni or any dry pasta

Ice lolly sticks

Hot glue gun

Play dough



Start by heating up your glue gun (this one is for the parents as it can get really hot!)

Place some glue dots on the ice lolly sticks and ask your little ones to place the macaroni or pasta onto the glue dots, be quick as the glue dries fast!

Get creative with the placement as these will make lovely imprints in your play dough.

Start stamping! Creating patterns in the dough with home made stampers is very exciting for little ones and teaches them some excellent skills such as imprinting, cause and effect and patterns and texture.

We’d love to see your creations, tag us on Instagram @doughanimal

How to manage working from home with a toddler in tow

by Lizy Oakes

So I think I have sat down and attempted to write this blog seven times now, and I suppose there is some irony in that. The title: How do you manage working from home and a toddler? Well…we are now over there weeks in to lockdown and i think it is fair to say…the process is not a smooth one!

Initially I thought I was super woman, I had a daily chart, I’d used Pinterest to look up things to do with little one, created folders of work, decided what home learning I was offering for each year group at school, chosen to lead my nursery Whatsapp group so that little one could stay in touch with her friends, decided I was doing Joe Wicks to get thin during lockdown, made my shopping list and prepped my meals whilst all the time dealt with, ‘Mummy?’ and ‘Darling have you seen.. ‘. It turns out that is not achievable.
I pride myself on my organisation skills, I have always been the ‘doer’ I like to plan my plans, I think it is my way of coping – which is probably a nice way of saying my coping mechanism is being in control, my anxiety takes over when I am not planned – something which my other half has had to learn to accept and negotiate too.

I am a teacher in a secondary school, teaching my first love - drama, and I had always thought I would be able to keep the same level of organisation once I had my daughter, how wrong I was.

They tell you, but you just aren’t prepared for the complete life overhaul and when I returned to work when little one was 9 months I had to change, accept that being everywhere and the ‘ideal’, no matter what you see on social media or are told by others, just doesnt happen in reality – well not in mine. We all learn to do what works for us and get by one day at a time.

I think once lockdown was announced I reverted to ‘I must be in control’, everything wasnt normal anymore, not that ‘normal’ is a thing but my normal day to day. I had decided that in order to survive I needed to plan. All these people who are posting ‘my house is clean from top to bottom, what to do next?’, and ‘loving life in the sunshine with a glass of wine’. I was SO envious and I decided I could do that, I just needed a timed schedule. My other half, bless him, went along with my crazy idea even though he was still running his business full time from home. It took me about 5 days, and the realisation of having to get in the bath at 2am because I was in so much pain from going all out with Joe that, I couldn’t do it, I wanted to but if I was going to sustain this for the foreseeable then it had to be achievable.

The extension of the lockdown has been announced and I have not attempted to plan in any way shape or form, I have realised I cant control anything during this dreadful time.

What I can do is show my little one how to deal with stress, anxiety, isolation and change of routine by showering her with love and showing her that mental and physical health mean everything.

I find myself thinking of all the children at school, particularly those who I know seek solace in that environment and know that is what they would crave, so I need to be an example and positive role model.

So how am I juggling things?

We have probably watched too much television, eaten the wrong things, stayed in our pyjamas most days – or changed from pyjamas into other pyjamas, cried, tried and failed at potty training, got play dough stuck in the carpet, eaten too much easter chocolate, but we have made memories that I will remember forever. We have laughed so hard, I have heard my little one stringing together words that I didn’t even know she knew and also realised she is a true blend of her mother’s sass and her father’s humour.

I have also tried to remember that we will never get this time back, and as full time working Mummy I am counting my blessings that I get this time with my little girl and my other half. I am doing what I can, when i can for work and trying not to let myself stress too much. Whenever I see my other family, my school kids, I will help them – that is what I do, but for now I am responding to their emails and praising them for completing what work they can, they know I am here for them. I find myself talking about them more than ever, I miss them, I suppose teaching is a vocation after all, not just a job.

I’ve moved away from a minute by minute activity list and instead I just have a daily piece of paper, I write down things I would like to get done, I have worked out I am at my best in the morning so do what I can then. I try and have a different focus each day so today was numbers but other days I will do things focused on shape, letters, colours, textures and animals. I often do something based around a book each day – we will read the book and then I will pick an element of the book that links to the daily focus.

I feel I have actually learnt to accept during lockdown, accept that we are always one day closer to getting out of this awful time, accept I am normal for having crazy emotional rollercoaster moments, accept I am not a failure if I don’t meet my own crazy deadlines, accept my little one thinks I am the best Mum (even on days I don’t feel like it) and accept that I am lucky to be safe.

The benefit of learning through play

A word from reception teacher Danni Strange:

As a passionate Reception class teacher I love sharing and promoting play based learning experiences for young children. The Early years are paramount to children’s development not only for fundamental academic skills such as reading, writing and early numbers; the children also learn to negotiate, share, take turns in conversation and develop their own likes and interests.

So how is play dough beneficial for early learning?

Wow, the benefits of play dough… where do I begin? Most Early Years Foundation Stage settings in the United Kingdom have an area dedicated to play dough. To the naked eye this can appear to be a low level holding task, in fact what you’ll find is quite the opposite.

Creativity and Imagination:

First and foremost play dough is a creative medium that provides the children with unlimited possibilities in terms of moulding and expressing their imagination. Even from a young age, children create simple representations of people, animals and objects. This skill is a predecessor to the development of story narratives.

Social skills:

The play dough table is a great conversation station with children creating narratives around their objects, working through and discussing problems and also explaining their strategies and ideas for creation. It is important for adults to model this language while playing alongside their children e.g. “I am going to roll tiny balls of play dough to use for the eyes”.  Once the children have created their characters, they can create a story, there are some lovely examples of this in the Magical Forest blog post. Furthermore, if children are using play dough with siblings or peers it becomes the perfect situation to execute turn taking and the realisation that often you have to wait for resources.

Fine motor skills:

Play dough is incredibly malleable, durable and stretchy. For little fingers and hands the act of squishing, rolling and pinching all help to develop the muscles in their hand. Not only that, often when manipulating dough the children will use tools which requires control and precision. By enhancing the muscles in their hands the children are able to hold their pencil the correct way and have a firmer grip and better pressure when it comes to writing.


It has become increasingly important to equip children with the skills they require to identify feelings and to develop strategies to regulate these. One approach we are using is Mindfulness. The children are encouraged to focus on their breathing and to execute the ‘feel, stop, think, act’ process. Play dough is the perfect tool for this, particularly scented dough. The children can sit in one position focus on their breathing and complete repetitive actions such as rolling and squashing. We have found that as the children become more relaxed they are provided with a great opportunity to express and discuss their emotions.

Educational activities using play dough

Activities that reception teacher Danni Strange recommends:

Dough Disco (Shonette Bason-Wood):

In the first half term we provide the children with opportunities to develop their fine motor skills. This includes a daily Dough Disco using our play dough. Shonette has created numerous videos on her YouTube channel which allow children to copy her actions while having a dance. The children really enjoy these quick sessions and they know that they are “getting their fingers ready for writing!”

Mini teachers:

This activity develops the children’s conversation skills alongside their fine motor development. The children will provide the adult with instructions on how to make a specific object or will lead their own interactive session. To develop the children’s language skills you can pretend that you are an alien and therefore only do what the children tell you to do (literally!) This may seem very silly at first but it will encourage your children to give clear instructions and develop their explanations.

Story telling:

There is mountains of research that emphasises the importance of reading to your child to support language development and exposure to new vocabulary. By creating stories using your Dough Animal characters you are increasing the children’s story vocabulary, providing them with a means of escapism, developing their imagination and creativity as well as strengthening family relationships.

Get to know our founder

What is your background?

I graduated in Cape Town with a BA in Creative Brand Communications specialising in Visual Communications and went into the giant world of advertising at one of the world’s top agencies straight out of college. I then moved to London and joined agency life here, working full time as a Senior Digital Designer and Content Strategist for another world leading company.

How did you get started in this business?

I have always wanted to start my own business and have had loads of different ideas over the years. Dough Animal was an over night thought and I knew I wanted to make it work. So when I left my last job early in 2019 I had about a month to focus on starting up Dough Animal before going back to work. It was a lot of product testing, making batches and batches of dough and getting the ingredients and colours right. Designing the branding and finding the best packaging for the dough and pulling it all together. My kitchen floor was constantly full of flour and my dining room table covered in sticker off cuts.

Where do you see your business in the future?

In the next year we will launch new product ranges (this is something that we will do continuously), hopefully start stocking in boutique stores across the country and participate in markets. In the next 5 years, I hope to have Dough Animal as a full time business and be making, packaging and marketing our beautiful brand every day of the week. We may also have another little mini dough helper by then.

How did you start in South Africa and will you expand?

I am originally from Cape Town and have a lot of family and friends there, I also used to photograph children’s parties so have connections in many circles through my previous photography business as a student and there was a demand in the market. So when my cousin Casey approached me a few months after launching to run the business in Cape Town, I couldn’t say no! We may look at posting internationally in our future, from our UK studio, but only to a select few countries.

What's your favourite thing to do?

I enjoy exploring new places, foods and experiences and living in London allows me to see so much more of the world. But I also enjoy sitting on the sofa and binge watching Netflix all day. I guess balance is good 

What's your favourite thing about Dough Animal?

Our recipe includes only natural ingredients, even the colouring is made from vegetable and plant extracts, and I love that you don’t need to worry about toxins and chemicals while your little one plays and explores. As an advocate for imaginative play and early childhood education, I love that play dough facilitates learning through play. I also love that the dough smells absolutely delicious.

What inspires you?

Small business owners with big ideas and ambition, turning their brand into market leading companies.