I enjoy making seasonal play dough for my students. It adds something a little extra special to our seasonal activities! Two of my favorite play dough recipes for the winter season are snow dough and hot chocolate play dough. Not only do we use it for creative play, but we also use it for learning activities as well. In this post I’ll share with you the winter play dough recipes I use and also ways to use play dough in the classroom.
Snow Dough Play Dough Recipe
2 cups baking soda
1/2 cup conditioner
silver glitter or incandescent glitter (optional)
Mix the baking soda and conditioner together. You can adjust the amount of conditioner to create the consistency you like. I add a little silver glitter to make it glisten like snow. So simple and your room will smell amazing! To make it feel cold like snow, you can put it in the freezer prior to using it.
Hot Chocolate Play Dough Recipe
1 cup hot chocolate mix
1 cup baking soda
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons oil
Mix together the dry ingredients.
Mix the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients a little at a time. Mix together.
Play dough has many benefits – not only do students LOVE playing with it, it also strengthens and improves fine motor skills, helps relieve stress, builds imagination and vocabulary, and makes a great learning manipulative. Here is a list of my favorite ways to use snow dough and hot chocolate play dough in the classroom.
Play Dough Learning Activities
Strengthen Fine Motor Skills, Scissor/Cutting Skills, & Imagination Through Creative Play
I feel that students need time for creative play, however with the increasing demands of meeting standards nowadays we are often asked to justify “play time”. It is very easy for me to justify allowing students to create with play dough because it helps strengthen those all important fine motor skills, it increases their imagination and critical thinking skills as they figure out how and what to create, and I make sure to include scissors as one of the accessories because cutting play dough is great scissor skill practice! You can use regular child scissors or play dough scissors.
Sizes, Shapes, Engineering
Of course a favorite thing that students build with the snow dough is a snowman! So I use that as an opportunity to talk about sizes. I ask which size snowball they put on the bottom and why and have them make snowballs of different sizes.
We also talk about sizes with the hot chocolate play dough. I have gingerbread man cookie cutters of various sizes that the students enjoy using. I have them line them up or sort their gingerbread men according to size.
During our math groups I provide cut up straws and have students create different shapes using the snow dough and straws. You could also have them form shapes just using the snow dough or have them use shape cutters to create shapes with the snow dough.
My students like to design and build their own structures using the snow dough and straws. Another favorite is building igloos (we had learned about igloo building in our snow science unit)!
We also see who can build the tallest snowman. This activity strengthens critical thinking and engineering skills as students figure out how to create and stack their snowballs in order for the snowman to stand without falling. This activity also reviews math skills as students count the number of snowballs they used and figure out who used the most and/or who’s snowman is tallest.
Number Sense & Counting Activities
A great fine motor activity for young students is to have them roll small balls of play dough with their fingers. I use this for many math activities in our math groups and centers. Students create and count the correct number of snowballs using our winter play dough mats and then form the number with the snow dough.
I also like to slip our winter counting pages into page protectors and have the students create and count out the correct number of snowballs with their snow dough.
When using the hot chocolate play dough for math, I have students choose a hot chocolate number card and then create and count out the correct number of balls of play dough.
For some number sense practice, I have students choose a tally mark hot chocolate card and then form the number with their hot chocolate play dough.
We practice more or less, greater than/less than by choosing two hot chocolate math cards , creating and counting the correct number of snow dough “marshmallows”, and then using “math talks” to discuss which group has more or less and how they know.
Addition, Subtraction Smash, & Making 10
I also use play dough as a math manipulative when we are working on addition word problems. I read a word problem and the students use the play dough to help them visualize and solve the problem. They then write the addition sentence on the desk (or play dough mat) using dry erase markers.
Subtraction smash is a favorite! Students actually want to practice subtraction when we do this activity! Students choose 2 hot chocolate math cards, figure out which number is larger and create and count that many hot chocolate play dough balls. Then they “take away” the smaller number of balls by smashing them with their fists! So fun! Lastly, they write the subtraction sentence with a dry erase marker.
One of the core standards that kindergarten students need to master is making ten. We practice this using our hot chocolate ten frame cards and the snow dough. Students choose a card and then create and count out the correct amount of marshmallows to make 10. They then write the addition sentence with dry erase markers or sometimes for added fun they build the addition sentence with the snow dough.
Another math activity I like to use the snow dough or hot chocolate play dough for is practicing measurement. I will have the students roll out or make a play dough rope or snow wall. Then I will ask them to create another one that is either longer or shorter.
I also have rulers on hand and allow students to measure their creations or I will ask them to create something that is 4 inches long for example and they will build alongside the ruler.
Letters, Phonics, Sight Word Practice
I have found that using play dough really helps reluctant students practice and learn their letters. The hot chocolate play dough is great for forming letters. During small groups, I say a letter and have students form it using the hot chocolate play dough or show them a letter, have them say it and then form it (uppercase and/or lowercase) with the hot chocolate play dough. When practicing letter sounds/phonics, I will show a winter picture and have the students say and form the beginning sound with the hot chocolate play dough.
Forming sight words with play dough is a fun, hands-on way to introduce or review words. I first have students write the sight word with a dry erase marker and then “build” the word with the snow dough.
I like using the hot chocolate play dough as markers for our Cocoa Bingo Game.
Stress Relief / Early Finishers
I place balls of the hot chocolate play dough in ziploc bags and keep them in a center. When I see that a student is stressed, fidgety, or angry I will sometimes give them a ball of the play dough and let them squish and mash those feelings out. It is also a choice for early finishers.
If you are interested in the resources that were featured in this post, they are: