Playdough is such a versatile, fun toy. My daughter loves playing with it. We make food for her stuffed animals and dolls, we make them into balls and organize colors, she ends up just mixing all of them but that’s fun for her too! We were playing the other day and together we prepared a little game for her. She had fun and I was inspired! I love having these moments 🙂 So after she was done playing I decided I could build on the little game and make it into a fun DIY math game for older children (my daughter just turned 2 as I write this).
This is a great game you can use to help your children with pre math skills, patterns, and colors. Handling the little balls of playdough will stimulate their fine motor skills especially in early childhood. It is also made out of things you probably have at home, it is easy and takes less than 10 minutes to prepare. As a bonus, it is very easy to transport and you can take it on trips or any place you might need to wait for a while. I will start by describing the DIY part of the game and then suggest a few ways you can play. Feel free to invent your own games too!
Materials you will need:
This is such a short list! For this game you will need:
- Playdough: commercial one or DIY one (there are some great recipes online, for example: https://www.diynatural.com/homemade-playdough-recipe/ )
- Egg carton: we used a 6-egg one because we don’t have that many colors but you could also use a 12-egg one
Preparation of the Math Game:
Start by choosing the 6 colors you will use. Then, using a little bit of playdough, squeeze a piece of each color into each egg-holder space until it’s flat against the bottom. Then make 10 balls that you can put into the top part of the egg carton. That’s it! It should look something like this:
The Math Game:
Time to play! Ask your child to collect a certain number of balls. You do this by getting balls and putting them into the corresponding egg-holder. Once you collect them all, you ask your child to create a pattern. I suggest having your own set of playdough balls and starting the pattern and let your child follow it or copy it. Depending on your child’s age they can then count them all together or add the different colors.
Other Ways of Playing:
There are a few other ways you can use this game, feel free to adapt/invent additional fun games to suit your children:
- Sensory play: Ask your child to close their eyes and put some balls in the egg carton. Hide the remaining balls. Your child can then open their eyes, shake the box, and try to guess how many balls are inside. Depending on your child’s age you can then open the egg carton up and count them or you can show them the remaining balls and they have to subtract. Changing from a visual to a more acoustic setting requires more thoughtfulness from the child. It’s a great exercise to try to control their impulsive behaviour and deal with external distractions. Even if it is just for a short period of time.
- Color and memory: Start with one ball of each color on the table and ask your child to look at them closely and then close their eyes. Put one ball in the egg carton and ask your child to open their eyes and guess what color is missing. You can increase the difficulty by hiding more than one color. What seems at a first glance relatively easy will turn out challenging for the mind of the child. One or two missing colours will be hard to identify for toddlers. What may seem simpple for us, requires a lot of attention and concentration in the early years of our life.
Hope you enjoyed this fun and simple game and that your children have fun with it. Let me know in the comments if you or your children came up with other fun ways to use this DIY game.
For more information about STEM and how to transform your STEM activities at home, check out these posts:
Check out other fun STEM activities to sneak in some STEM learning:
- STEM activity: Build a pyramid and learn about shapes
- STEM challenge: The Tower of Random Things
- Sensory STEM jello experiment
- STEM water play: 8 fun activities to try this summer
Happy STEM learning!