TeacherLists Blog

How 100 Teachers Use Play-Doh in Their Classroom

Play-Doh modeling compound is an excellent tool to have on-hand in the classroom. Regardless of your subject and grade level, there’s a vast spectrum of creative and educational uses for the teacher-approved modeling compound. In fact, we asked teachers just like you to share their favorite ways to use Play-Doh modeling compound in the classroom, and here’s what they had to say: 

P.S. Keep reading to learn how you can win Play-Doh for your classroom! 


  • “I use Play-Doh for the writing process: brainstorm ideas together and draft/create something with those ideas, then revise or change something with a partner. We take time to edit those changes, then lastly, we share our creation.” Andrea P, Allen, TX 
  • “Smashing dots of Play-Doh when sounding out letter sounds for words” Kimberly H, North Wilkesboro NC 
  • “Name practice. Students use Play-Doh to pinch, roll, and shape letters of their name.” Jessica P, Fargo, ND 
  • “We use Play-Doh modeling compound in my classroom to form letters upper and lower case. This is a multi-sensory form of learning that helps students struggling to recognize letters. As they build them, they say their name and sound. They can also touch and say letter name and sound after it is built.” Michaela L, Brighton, CO 
  • “We have the students use letter stamps to practice spelling words in the Play-Doh (it saves paper!).” Amy W, Asheville, NC 
  • “I have used Play-Doh to teach various subjects to my dyslexic and learning-disabled students. We make letters and trace over the letters to replicate the sound, applying the multi-sensory approach to Orton-Gillingham reading methodology.” Michelle L, New Castle, DE 
  • “I use Play-Doh to encourage students to create characters that they will feature in their narrative writing. Once they create their characters, they then complete a story map of their stories (plot, problem, solution, setting, title).” Kendra O, Alhambra, CA 
  • “We use it to help with blending sounds into words (students pick up each small ball as they make the sound and squish them together when blending them. For segmenting words (students flatten each ball for each sound they hear in a word).” Jackie M, Manchester, CT 
  • “I have my students use Play-Doh to model new vocabulary words. They use the dough to create a visual example of the definition. For example, if the word is “glee”, my students might build a person with a happy face.” Kylie M, King City, CA 
  • “I say an object and the kids have to form the letter it begins with out of Play-Doh. They love it and it’s good for them to do.” Casey A, Saint Paul, MN 
  • “I love having students flatten Play-Doh like a pancake and then use a golf tee to “write” their vocabulary or spelling words.”  Candace B, Dixon, IL 
  • “Every year my 6th graders read the book “My Side of the Mountain”.  In the book, Sam uses clay to make pots for his water and jelly that he makes. My students use Play-Doh to make their own pots like Sam does in the book.” Michelle S, Piper City, IL 
  • “I use it for phonics practice! Stamping letters into the Play-Doh or making balls and then smashing them as they say each sound in a word.” Josh B, Fayetteville, TN 
  • “My 8th graders are currently creating a planet each of them could come from, as we read The Little Prince.” Jennifer D, Providence, RI 
  • “One creative way I’ve used Play-Doh modeling compound in the classroom is for a storytelling and language development activity. I divide the class into small groups and give each group a different color of Play-Doh. Then, I ask them to sculpt characters, objects, and scenes related to a story we had read or were studying in class.”  Marissa J, Savannah, GA 
  • “I am an 8th grade English teacher, and I have students that read at a variety of different levels.  We tend to read some “on grade” text and sometimes it’s challenging.  I like to use Play-Doh as a kinesthetic way of learning to help students recall important parts of a story. They get in groups and use the Play-Doh to recall what has been read and illustrate what inferences they are making. Most recently we did this with a passage about the sinking of The Titanic. Students made passengers, boats, the Titanic, and the iceberg and were explaining what had happened to one another.” Nicole M, Kokomo, IN 
  • “My Kindergarten students use Play-Doh to begin the school year along with ABC Bootcamp. We do a letter a day and part of that includes hands on forming the letter with Play-Doh and a Play-Doh mat.” Tara G, West Haven, CT 
  • “I am an ELA teacher for sixth grade. My students love to play with Play-Doh. We will sometimes have setting or plot wars. This is where the students will face off in table groups, using Play-Doh to create the setting or plot of a story. It can also be used to show conflict as well. The texture seems to calm students and brings them together.” Julie R, Conroe, TX 
  • “In my instructional approach, I leverage the versatile medium of Play-Doh to enrich student learning experiences. I employ Play-Doh sculptures as a metaphor for the intricate writing process. By guiding students through the creation of sculptures to mimic everyday objects and encouraging them to reset by reshaping Play-Doh, I draw parallels between sculpting and the process of crafting written pieces. Through this hands-on activity, students grasp the concept that crafting a narrative is akin to sculpting – it often requires multiple revisions and refinements before achieving a polished final product.” Beverly B, Charleston, WV 
  • “I have also used the modeling compound in my classroom to support sound recognition. The students were given a sound and they had to create the letter of the sound using the modeling compound to form the letter.” Holly M, Fredericksburg, VA 

Social-Emotional/Fine Motor 

  • “Students have made gifts for their family members. Using Play-Doh is a great way for students to work fine motor muscles to strengthen them.” Jennifer B, Erie, PA 
  • “I’ve had students use Play-Doh to have them create something to represent themselves.” Katrina S, Rexburg, ID 
  • “My Pre-K students use Play-Doh to make their favorite foods at the beginning of the year.  I use this as an ice breaker so they can get to know their new classmates.” Margo E, Atoka, TN 
  • “Students are given a scenario and then asked to use the Play-Doh to create an emoji shape of the emotion the scenario evokes for them.” Lori R, Cortland, OH 
  • “I am a Music teacher and love to use Play-Doh to strengthen students’ fingers and improve their dexterity. This helps with playing piano, guitar/ ukulele/string instruments, recorder, and other instruments that use the fingers.” Kristin E, Miami, FL 
  • “I have used it as a calming, mindful-focused brain break tool to allow children time to calm their anxiety, nerves, anger and any other emotion they may be feeling.  It gives them quiet, creative time to soothe themselves and let their creativity come to the surface without feeling judged or embarrassed.” Meredith R, Wantagh, NY 
  • “We used Play-Doh modeling compound to make “old-fashioned” weeble wobbles.  We use them as a visual reminder to be resilient.  “A weeble wobble falls, but it won’t stay down.” Stefanie W, Bedford, TX 


  • “We use it for learning measurements (make a snake longer than your pencil etc).” Jackie M, Manchester, CT 
  • “We’ve used it to create arrays in multiplication, which will also be applied to area and perimeter.” Lorena V, Lake Elsinore, CA 
  • “We have used Play-Doh in our classroom to model geometric shapes and different kinds of angles.” Janette R, Spring Hill, FL 
  • “My students and I use Play-Doh modeling compound when we begin our unit on Fractions. Each student is given a can to make their best pizza. After 5-7 minutes, the students are asked to share their whole pizzas. The students are then asked to use their plastic spoon handles to cut their pizza to where they and a friend could share the pizza.” Marsha M, Seneca, SC 
  • “My favorite current activity is the Subtraction Smash game! Students get 10 balls of Play-Doh that go on a 10 frame. I flip over a card numbered 0-10. We then smash that many balls of Play-Doh and write out the subtraction equation. They LOVE it!” Aspen B, Janesville, CA 
  • “I have used Play-Doh to teach the math concept of breaking apart and creating tens and ones to learn place value. While linking cubes are useful, they are easily lost, and sets become incomplete.” Haley M, Evansville, IN 
  • “I teach Algebra 1 to 8th and 9th grade students. One of my standards is to teach dilations of quadratic functions.  This was very confusing to some of my students since horizonal compression and vertical stretch visually are similar. Likewise, a horizontal stretch and a vertical compression visually are similar. I use Play-Doh to demonstrate what happens when I stretch the Play-Doh in the vertical direction or compress the Play-Doh in the vertical direction. This allows them to see what happens (narrower vs wider).”  Megan D, Fredericksburg, TX 
  • I have been introducing 3D shapes by showing a flat version of a shape, such as a circle, and then showing them a sphere (ball) and talking about the difference between the two.  We then use Play-Doh to make the different “solid shapes” “3D” shapes.  We’ve made cylinders, spheres, and cubes just today.”  John W, Florissant, MO 
  • “I have used it during math to create word problems, specifically 2 students who each come up with a different number or dots to represent a number.” Christina N, Fairfield, CA 
  • “The student rolls the Play-Doh into differently sized balls. The students compare the size of Play-Doh balls and predict which ball will weigh the most/least. The students use a balance scale and a digital scale for measurements. The students record their data/findings in written notes or on a child-created video (our students have iPads to use at school).” Melissa P, Columbus, MS 
  • “We make numbers to practice applying touch dots for addition and subtraction. We also practice multiplication and division.” Michelle L, New Castle, DE 


  • “We recently formed our 3D shapes (sphere, cylinder, cones) and used them to model the animals we were studying and classified them by mammals, reptiles, birds, etc.” Catherine P, Portland, OR 
  • “We use it when we have our plant unit to form the different parts of the plants.” Jackie M, Manchester, CT 
  • “During our garden club time, we have made different plants and put them on our garden planning sheets.” Lillian Falk, Portage, IN 
  • “We made nocturnal animal habitats with Play-Doh and pipe cleaners.  It was a very engaging experience that the children loved.” Dawn D, Wiggins, MS 
  • “We’ve used it in our Float or Sink lab. We made rafts/boats out of it and placed items on top until it sank (buoyancy & density). The kids LOVED it!” Dr. Amy W, Sevierville, TN 
  • “I used it to model the sun, moon, and earth distances, sizes, and rotations.” Karen D, Marlton, NJ 
  • “We actually use Play-Doh to make fictitious animals which goes with our Variation of Traits Science Unit. Students name their animal, add things to it, tell me what it eats, and the environment it lives in. When they are done, they can use the leftover Play-Doh for calming if needed.” Christina Bahe, WI 
  • “I have modeling compound in my classroom for students to use to build models of animals we do research projects on. They build shoebox habitats and include these animal creations.” Beth S, Akron, OH 
  • “I use Play-Doh in my classroom every year to model the rock cycle. They receive two different colors and begin by weathering their pieces. Then they compact and cement the pieces together to form a sedimentary rock. They model metamorphic rock by squeezing their Play-Doh between their hands to apply heat and pressure. They model igneous rock by completing mixing their Play-Doh until they have one solid color.” Jennifer L, Atlanta, GA 
  • “I use Play-Doh modeling compound in my human development class.  We use Play-Doh to create models of the human body and body parts.  One of the best lessons to use this for is reproductive parts and the stages of development when a mother is still pregnant.” Vicki D, Huron, SD 
  • “Fossil imprints during our Paleontology Unit.” Rebecca K, Eastpointe, MI 
  • “We use Play-Doh to make models of processes that happen in our bodies that students can’t visually see. Modeling with Play-Doh helps them put a visual to something on a cellular level. We have modeled how enzymes work, the immune system, and cell respiration to name a few!” Kristina L, Westfield, MA 
  • “My fifth-grade students study parts of plant and animal cells. This concept is so hard for students to understand because they can’t see them. To help them better understand parts of cells, we build a cell model. I have used several different materials to build these, but Play-Doh is my favorite.” Sherri W, Cartersville, GA 
  • “The students make models of ocean floor topography. Once they complete modeling the topography, they are free to add organisms that live at different ocean levels. The students love the activity and are very creative. We LOVE Play-Doh!!!” Carmen M, Athens, OH 
  • “We use it to create models of the different topics we study such as the planets or space. My favorite is the layers of Earth models.” Dawn S, Austin, TX 
  • “Fifth grade learns about weather in science and then we build a hurricane shelter. The students each get 20 popsicle sticks, one piece of construction paper, and one container of Play-Doh. They must construct a hurricane shelter that will be tested by wind (a hairdryer) and rain (water).” Lauren B, Allentown, PA 
  • “My students used the Play-Doh in our classroom and created a Landform Plate.  We simply gave them a paper plate and they were able to make many landforms on the plate. They made caves, volcanoes, islands, and the bodies of water were blue (of course). Then they labeled the landforms using a toothpick and some paper like a flag.” Esther S, Dedham, MA 
  • “When studying Ocean life, our students created coral reefs by using Play-Doh for the ocean floor, rolling Play-Doh strips and twisting them around pipe cleaners for coral and using shape cutters to create shells and fish living in their reef.” Jenny B, Milford, CT 
  • “When I taught middle school science, I used Play-Doh when modeling molecules.  We created atoms with Play-Doh and bonds with toothpicks.” Chelsie W, Silverdale, WA 
  • In our next science unit, we will use Play-Doh to mount bones from our owl pellet dissection lab to see if anyone can piece together a complete skeleton.” Jennifer G, Berlin, NJ 
  • “We used it to show the life cycle of a plant and also a chick!” Kristen H, Apple Valley, MN 
  • “We have used Pay-Doh in science to make different color molecules when working with DNA or Atoms” Sherri F, Wickenburg, AZ 
  • “Create scale models of the solar system and diagrams of the phases of the moon” Tonya R, Newport News, VA 
  • “We used Play-Doh this year for our students to demonstrate Science standards by creating models. One of the favorites was when we used Ken dolls and Play-Doh to design and create protective gear for different sports. We had diving, soccer goalies, baseball players, football players, rollerbladers, hockey players and even rock climbers.” Mindy H, Clinton, IA 
  • “We did our dental health unit and used it as gums, with beads as teeth to pull. The kids loved this activity.” Ayrrell T, Indianapolis, IN 
  • “Students in my classroom use Play-Doh modeling compound to bring their nonfiction research projects to life! They choose a nonfiction topic. From there, they research information during reading and collect and organize their facts, details, graphics, and notes. Then they write a nonfiction book along with their 3D topic.” Katie L, Franklin, MA 
  • “I use Play-Doh to help students learn about cross-sections in 3D figures.” Amy M, Mount Olive, IL 
  • “We have used Play-Doh modeling compound to create model tires for a Mars Rover in a local STEM competition. Students needed to create a model of their tire design and we decided to use modeling compound to create several prototypes.” Carissa S, Pataskala, OH 
  • “I have used it to make circuits with 9-volt batteries, LED lights, and wire. The students were challenged to make a Christmas tree using those items, plus modeling clay and Play-Doh. I also use this in my art and STEAM stations.” Laura P, Vine Grove, KY 
  • “We use Play-Doh to make design models in our Principles of Engineering course. It allows students to see a 3D view while learning to draw isometric views of their design. We also use it to create ballasts on planes used for flight competitions. The weight is need on the nose of the plane to further the flight distance.” Thomas O, El Paso, TX 
  • “One project that we completed was building a beaver’s dam.  The boys and girls used sticks and the Play-Doh modeling compound to create a dam.  They worked together with a team and demonstrated great problem-solving skills.  They tested their dam with water and made improvements as needed.  Their engagement and educational conversations were impressive.” Leanne C, Pittsburg, PA 
  • “We have been using Play-Doh in our morning STEM bags! As the students come in each morning, they grab their baggie of building materials, with Play-Doh being the main event, and they can create the challenge of the day (build a bridge, a critter, a spelling word, etc.) and then we do a quick share!” Melanie K, Omaha, NE 
  • “My students use Play-Doh to create controllers for games on their computers using Makey Makey Invention kits. Play-Doh is a great conductor of electricity and easy to mold into colorful controls.” Elizabeth D, Harleysville, PA 
  •  “My husband is an engineer, and he comes to my class every other Friday to do an activity with my students. 2 weeks ago, he did an engineering activity about bridges. He taught about the structure of bridges- what makes them strong, how they’re used, etc. Then my students each got a new container of Play-Doh to create their own bridges using a work mat with land and water and toothpicks. They LOVED it!” Amanda G, Dallas, TX 
  • “Modeling Earth’s layers and Modeling Plate Boundaries” Mia-Pia C, ‘Ewa Beach, HI 

Free Time/Imagination 

  • “Play-Doh is my kindergarteners’ favorite brain-break and early finisher activity. We use it to build the animals we’re learning about, to build numbers and letters, and so they can explore their imagination with each other.” Emilie A, Portland, OR 
  • “Each year on the first day of school I set a small can of Play-Doh on each student desk. As students arrive they read the tag which says, Doh be shy, open me up and create something. When finished, students draw their creation and write about it. Then, students are encouraged to combine a small amount of their Doh with their partner’s Doh.” Monica V, Los Angeles, CA 
  • I allow my students to use Play-Doh to create things as a bell activity when they come in daily. We have about 15 minutes during which they socialize and create. Jelina N, Springfield, IL 
  • “Every year, as we are getting to know one another, I give students a small container of Play-Doh on a paper plate.  I ask them to fill in the blanks of a sentence.  “This ______represents me because _____” and then I ask them to create something with their dough that makes their sentence true. “Brenden P, Kennewick, WA 
  • “We use Play-Doh for sensory breaks, easy morning bins, and recess” Presley B, Star Lake, NY 
  • “I like to fill latex balloons with Play-Doh and tie off the end.  Students love using it to fidget and relax. I love the fidget toy because it can be cleaned quickly and it’s quiet.” Audra H, Carson City, NV 
  • “During the pandemic I made individual Play-Doh bags for each child.  Each bag had a can of Play-Doh and tools to use. This was an overwhelming success, so I have continued this idea every year.  Each child has their own bag of Play-Doh.  We use our bags every Friday for Fun Friday and when needed for a math or literacy activity.  Play-Doh bags are a favorite Fun Friday activity!” Charla G, Oklahoma City, OK 
  • “We once used Play-Doh to create a bulletin board classroom garden where the kids made veggies and fruits with their Play-Doh and we stuck it to the bulletin board paper to make it 3D” Miranda H, Mountain City, TN 


  • “I have used Play-Doh to make a music staff and have the students make music notes. We place them on the staff to make a song.” Linda V, Stone Mountain, GA 
  • “I teach my students the basics of stop motion animated videos. We use a lot of Play-Doh in the creating of these videos for the props, settings, characters, items, etc.” Danielle B, Burley, ID 
  • “We use Play-Doh for our lighting unit. First, we build figures and/or set pieces with white Play-Doh, place them on a “proscenium stage” (in a shoe box), and hit the “actors/set” with a flashlight to show front lighting, side lighting, downlighting, backlighting, etc.  We record the results in our notebooks. We repeat the process with different-colored Play-Doh.” Jennifer B, Trussville, AL 
  • “We make monsters or animals out of ours and add googley eyes and pipe cleaners for legs.” Dana F, New Orleans, LA 
  • “I have used Play-Doh in my music classroom with students creating beat rhythm patterns. They make big balls for quarter notes, and two smaller balls for eighth notes. I have rhythm measure mats they use to create their measure compositions.” Crystal H, Minneapolis, MN 
  • “My four-year-olds have a can of Play-Doh in their individual art boxes at their tables.  Once a week, they use it to create something we have learned about during that week’s theme. Becky B, Charlotte, NC 
  • “Students would use the clay to mold an animal they will be writing about.” Suong P, Ontario, CA 
  • “We take white Play-Doh and use almost dried out markers and they can draw and then roll out a newly marbled Play-Doh!” Chelsea C, Detroit, MI 
  • “I use the white Play-Doh modeling compound and ball it up into a ball, poke a hole in the middle, put a drop of food color in the hole, and close it up. I then put the ball in a Ziploc bag and place the bags around the tables. Each ball has a different color in it. When the kids come in that morning, I tell them we have some Magic Play-Doh, and they need to see what color they got. I tell them to squish, squish, squish it in their hands and roll, roll, roll it around on the table to make it change colors. Once we start class, I chart to see what color everyone got.” Alisha S, Lakeland, GA 

History/Social Studies 

  • “In our fifth grade ELA curriculum, we have a unit on The Reformation.  In the unit, we discuss Guttenberg and the printing press.  I would use the Play-Doh to have students make their own stamps.” Courtney C, Kittanning, PA 
  • “We create artifacts in History to represent historical people and events.” Michelle L, New Castle, DE 
  • “We make Egyptian cartouches for an Egyptian art unit. Roll out a slab for the background and then form symbols to write a word or name.” Alison S, New Port Richey, FL 
  • “We use Play-Doh in several different ways. This unit of social studies is ancient China, and the students will construct a design of an invention made of Play-Doh to sell at our “Silk Road Market”. Inventions could be the wheelbarrow, crossbow, pottery, chariots, or kites… just about anything!” Jennifer G, Berlin, NJ 
  • “I love to purchase the tiny gift-size Play-Doh to give them to each student to write their name in Cuneiform during our Mesopotamian era and practice writing in Egyptian and Chinese!” Julie A, Bradenton, FL 
  • “I was teaching my 4th graders about biographies and decided to focus on people with disabilities. As a Makerspace station, I put out Play-Doh and a set of 3-D printed Braille stampers. The kids LOVED spelling out their names and words to “finger-read” just like Helen Keller.” Amy B, Pulaski, WI 
  • “The students watched how pottery was used in their Cherokee (tsa la gi) culture and having part of my 2nd grade classes, make the pinch pots was a blast for them. Some did make arrowheads and a fork, very creative.” Alice S, Stilwel, OK 
  • “Used Play-Doh Modeling for geography maps and using different colors for different areas/countries on the map. Different groups will have different parts and variations of the map over centuries timeline” Blair B, West Colombia, SC 
  • “We are learning about the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas!  We used Play-Doh modeling compound to express the Aztec number system.  Students used modeling clay to write their name and date of birth with cuneiform and modeling clay.” Michelle M, Prescott Valley, AZ 
  • “We used it to make Chinese dragons for the 2024 Chinese New Year.” Cara H, Raleigh, NC

Play-Doh isn’t just for elementary students! For more ideas, check out these activities for older students, middle school and beyond!

Are you inspired yet? Add Play-Doh to your school supply list and enter to win free Play-Doh and other classroom favorites! Visit our We Love Teachers Sweepstakes page to learn more.

Originally posted 2024

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