Tips & Tricks For Parents

Use Playdough to Help Your Child Learn New Words

Throw together some water, flour, salt, oil, and food coloring, and you’ve got a whole new activity for helping your child to learn new words—playdough! Playdough is colourful, engaging, and can be used in a variety of ways for listening and language learning, and, it’s really easy to make!

With the help of some animal shape cut-outs, you can help your child to learn new words. In this post we will use the example of a cat shape, but you can use any animal cutting shapes that you have for this activity. Use some additional props to play with the cut-out shapes, such as bowls or play-food.


Let’s begin the activity.

  • Firstly, hold a container of playdough in one hand. Play a hiding game by putting your hands behind your back and ask your child to choose a hand. Show your excitement when your child chooses the correct hand. Allow your child to try and open the dough container.
  • Encourage your child to smell the dough and freely play with it in their hands. Encourage the child to squeeze, pat and roll the dough. Say the word before doing each action to encourage your child to listen first, for example say “roll” before rolling the dough in your hands. This helps your child develop an understanding of the word. Repeat the word several times as you do the action, “roll, roll, roll”. Encourage your child to copy your words and actions.
  • Play the same hiding hand game to introduce a cat shape. Place the shape on top of the dough and encourage the child to press the shape down to cut out a cat. If your child does not want you to touch their dough you can use your own dough to do the activity.
  • Pretend the dough cat is real and call it saying, “here, kitty, kitty” and make “meow” sounds. If you both make cat shapes, you can pretend the cats are talking to each other and repeat the “meow” sound. Use the small bowls to pretend to give the cat some milk or food, encouraging your child to feed the cat saying “mm yum yum”. Make the cat pretend to run around the table or lay down to sleep. Follow your child’s lead and provide the words they need for the activities with their cat.

You can repeat the activity using the dog-shaped cut-out or any other animal!


Playdough is a great tool to introduce new words to your child. Try these steps to grow your child’s vocabulary:

  • Roll the playdough into sausages and talk about cooking them on the barbecue or making hotdogs. Introduce words about food such as “mmm yum yum”. Use action phrases related to the sausages, such as “cutting bread rolls” and “adding sauce”.
  • Roll the playdough into different sized balls and talk about which ones are little and which ones are big. Help your child to put them in order of smallest to largest. Your child may not be able to do this on their own but it will be a great introduction to the concept of size.
  • Sing songs that accompany your play such as “Pat-a-cake, Baker’s Man” when using the playdough.


Always remember to follow what your child is interested in and allow your child to lead the game play. It doesn’t matter how many of these games you fit into one play session—the important thing is that you are communicating and talking to each other throughout it!

This was written with help from Diana Zegg and Trudy Smith, rehabilitation specialists at MED-EL.


Like this post on helping your child to learn new words? Check out these 16 ways to help teach past tense verbs to your child!

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