Sensory play with Play dough and marbles

Playing with marbles and play dough

I pulled this activity out for Emma and Lily one rainy and cold day while Johnny was in preschool. They had a blast playing with the marbles and play dough (we make our own – this is my favorite recipe), and have requested to repeat the activity several times since! Johnny is actually playing with the two items together as I type, although, he seems to prefer bouncing the marbles on our tile floor…

Playing with marbles and play dough

Sensory Play with Play Dough and Marbles

Lily especially enjoyed making prints with her marbles. Emma preferred to make designs, and eventually moved on to making little cakes and cookies out of the play dough and using marbles to decorate her creations. The smoothness and hardness of the marbles makes a nice sensory contrast to soft and squishy play dough.

Playing with marbles and play dough

This makes great fine motor practice for toddlers and preschoolers as they use their pincer grasp to pick up the marbles and position them in the play dough!

Do you have a toy that you love combining with play dough?

Cost-benefit analysis:

  • Prep: Getting out baking pans, play dough, and marbles
  • Initial entertainment: about 20 minutes
  • Clean-up: Under three minutes, provided your child doesn’t decide to break the play dough into tiny pieces and throw it all over the floor. My kids didn’t do that this time, but it’s something they have been known to do in the past… It takes a little longer if you decide to rinse off the marbles instead of just keeping them in the play dough tupperware – OR you can have your children rinse off the marbles, and dry them individually, which actually buys you an extra 10 minutes of peaceful play!
  • Lasting value: quiet, creative play with interesting materials, learning about cause and effect if they use the marbles to make prints in play dough, fine motor skills practice

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

22 thoughts on “Sensory play with Play dough and marbles”

  1. Elisa | blissfulE

    How fun! I wonder if the cake tins you used were part of Emma’s inspiration for making “baked goods” out of her play dough and marbles. :) I like Lily’s prints as well. What a great activity!

  2. I love Lily’s looks of intense concentration! She reminds a lot of Leila when she’s in her zone. :)

  3. Abby likes to put beads and buttons in her playdough. She makes all kinds of creations with it. Isn’t it so fun to see kids enjoy such simple activities?!

  4. I came back to look at this one again. I’ve got to remember to do this next week with Jack! Such a creative and fun idea. I just noticed Lily’s Puma shirt–too cute Mary Anne :-).

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