The kids have been at home for 5 weeks now. This has given us the opportunity to find new and creative activities! Arlen loves play dough, so we borrowed a recipe from his “Grammy” and he and I worked together to make it. The act of making the play dough was a really fun and educational activity in itself, and then the play dough product led to additional hours of fun for Arlen. We also took the recipe a step further and made it into a few different sensory doughs.

What is Sensory Play?

Sensory Play includes any activity that stimulates your child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. It also includes senses involved in movement and balance.

Why Is Sensory Play Important?

I’m no expert in education, however, Arlen’s “Grammy” (Cindy Rowan) is a preschool teacher with a degree in Early Childhood Development so I called on her to answer this question. She explained that “It provides children with the ability to use their senses while exploring the world around them. They can learn so much from sensory play and I have found that it can also help to calm children who are struggling.”

Sensory play is also proven to be crucial to brain development and helps build nerve connections in the brain’s pathways. All of this helps the child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks. Additionally, it supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and more.

Sensory Play Dough

Benefits of this activity:

  • Fun and engaging activity
  • Cheap and easy
  • Sensory activity (See above for why this is beneficial)
  • Hand strengthening activity (which is important for preschoolers)
  • Fun bonding time
  • Opportunity for a “hunt” for materials we could use to add the sensory aspects (ex: lavender, coffee, chocolate)
  • Long-lasting (if stored appropriately, the dough will last at least a week)
  • No unnatural dyes or fragrances

There are various recipes available for homemade play dough, but I wanted to make something that did not have Cream of Tartar and could be done without added cooking time. With that in mind, here is the base recipe for the dough Arlen and I created: 

Playdough Recipe


I made this recipe to make small batches so we could do about a cup of play dough for each sensory ingredient we chose.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 3/4 cup of water minus 3 tablespoons
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • Your sensory items of choice


  1. Measure the water and lemon juice into a microwavable bowl. Heat in the microwave until it’s just about to boil. In our microwave, that was about 3.5-4 minutes.
  2. While the water mixture is heating, mix together the flour and salt.
  3. Slowly pour the liquid into the flour and salt mixture, and stir with a spoon until it just barely begins to form a dough.
  4. Drizzle the tablespoon of cooking oil over the dough and stir again until it forms a ball. At this point, you may want to knead the dough with your hands.
  5. Now, the fun part! Add your sensory ingredients. We explored the kitchen and found coffee grounds, dried lavender, cocoa powder, and dried rosemary. It was just as much fun to find these ingredients (looking through the fridge and pantry and smelling and feeling everything) as it was to play with the dough.
  6. Simply add those ingredients for scent and texture.


For a little more guidance, check this out.