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.

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.