Teaching math with hands-on activities is by far the best approach for preschoolers. Try this simple hands-on counting activity using a playdough recipe without cream of tartar.
Playdough Recipe without Cream of Tartar + Math Activities
Summer is winding down and signs of fall are slowing popping up here and there.
It’s funny because even though I’ve lived here all my life (well, except for three short years), I still think of fall as starting in September when in reality our summers easily last through the beginning of October.
I guess you might call it an Indian Summer, but that’s not accurate either because this summer feeling happens every year.
The nights don’t turn chilly until the end of October. The leaves don’t turn until the beginning of October, and my kids are basically wearing shorts into November before I finally decide it’s cold enough to pack them up for the winter.
And the summer flowers my little boys and I plant each year, they bloom well into fall. The falls still feel like summer. We have towering sunflowers which are so iconic of late summer and fall. But we also have spindly Cosmos that creep high between them and Zinnias that show-off their bright bursts of color. They all make it still feel like summer until the yellow finches have pecked away every last seed in them.
But my little boys adore these flowers and hang over them like a canopy. My tender-hearted kinder aged son walks out every morning after breakfast and check on them, and sometimes picks a cosmos to take to his teacher. I’m not sure if they ever actually make it through the short walk to school.
But it’s moments like these that inspire some of my preschool activities. Like this playdough flower building activity (which uses the very best playdough recipe without cream of tartar), but also teaching a giant helping of fine motor and math skills.
Hands-On Counting Activity Using Playdough
My preschoolers can never get enough of playdough. If you’re looking for an easy way to “spice things up” a bit, just add playdough. I could have easily made a counting printable, but not every hands-on counting activity didn’t seem to need one.
- Playdough in a variety of colors
- Number manipulatives (like these wooden numbers)
- Various materials good for counting and adding to playdough
Start by making your playdough. Having been a teacher for almost two full decades, I’ve tried my fair share of playdough recipes.
Click here to get my best playdough recipe without cream of tartar.
But my very favorite playdough recipe doesn’t call for cream of tartar and doesn’t involve using the cooktop, either. I appreciate both those things. For one, I’m always out of cream of tartar because I make so much playdough, and second, I seldom get the heat right on the stovetop and my playdough frequently ends up sticking to my stainless steel pans. Neither are good for me or my playdough.
So, I created this playdough recipe without cream of tartar and I use it every darn time I need more playdough. It works wonders because it is made in smaller batches, making it super easy to whip up a whole rainbow of colors. I love that I can literally make the whole rainbow in about twenty minutes.
Place the rainbow of colors in a tray with the number manipulatives and other playdough friendly counting manipulatives. Now, invite your preschooler to join you in some counting fun using playdough!
Using Playdough to Teach Math to Preschoolers
With summer coming to an end but our flowers still blooming steadfast and bright, my preschoolers and I decided to make some playdough flowers while doing a little number identification and counting practice too.
We started by making the center of our flowers. I challenged my preschoolers to start by making a round ball and then flattening it to make a pancake. Alternatively, you could offer your preschoolers playdough rolling pins, too.
We made “snakes” for our stems and smooshed out some flower leaves.
Then we started our math work using the playdough. The preschoolers used the wooden numbers to stamp into the center for their flowers. They added the corresponding number of petals, and then decorated their flowers with the same number of buttons, getting in even more counting practice.
Some preschoolers even added their buttons over the number they stamped, making just one more association between the number and the quantity.
If you don’t want to use buttons in your playdough, you can also try any of the following:
- acrylic gems or table scatter
- glass floral pebbles
- dry pasta (dyed for more fun)
- pom poms
- foam shapes
- large beads
- bug counters
- pipe cleaner
- silk flower pedals
You can use all sorts of manipulatives to make your playdough flowers even more interesting. One of my preschoolers even wanted to add equal sets of other items so she could end up with several sets within the same flower, which brought about loads of hands-on counting practice.
Don’t Forget the Benefits of Using Playdough
There is a reason why preschoolers are drawn to playdough activities. Here are a few benefits of using playdough in your math activities.
- provides tactile sensory input
- is calming and therapeutic
- develops fine motor skills
- builds hand-eye coordination
- allows for creativity
- encourages fine motor development
These are just a few benefits to using playdough in your preschool math activities.
Remember, if you want the absolute best playdough recipe without cream of tartar, you have to try this one!
More Activities Using My Playdough Recipe without Cream of Tartar
Like I said, this is my go-to playdough recipe because I love how quick it is to make lots of different colors. Check out these other playdough activities.
Looking for More Math Activities for Preschoolers?
These are all hands-on!
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.