Essential Dough

So this is one of my favorite weeks of the year, Christmas vacation week. Don’t get me wrong I love my job but I also love when I have a little extra time with Ellie and my family.

I was thinking of a fun activity to do with her the other day and thought why not try some play dough. Ellie is just starting to get the concept of helping in the kitchen. Her attention span is short but she loves to feel like she is helping. As with every one year old, everything is new and exciting.

I set to work creating some play dough with her. I know their are many recipes out there. Some involve cooking, some use extra ingredients and some are no cook. I chose to use this recipe with Ellie because I also use it in my classroom and like how it turns out. It is super simple to make. My students have made this before without much help from me other than a recipe. I also love the ingredients in this recipe because they are all totally safe to use with a one year old. If she gets any of these ingredients in her mouth I don’t need to panic.

As you can see, cooking with a one year old means things will get messy so having safe ingredients are so important to me.

I love the flexibility of this recipe. As Eliana and I were creating our dough, I think more flour may have landed on the table than in the bowl. Flour and salt were flying everywhere as she mastered the skill of dumping new ingredients into a bowl. This was easy to fix though because I just kept going with the recipe and then stirred it altogether. Afterwards I added more flour and more salt a bit at a time until we had the consistency we wanted for the dough.

Now you may be wondering why I call this essential dough. The word essential came from the use of essential oils in the dough. We have been using essential oils in my family for a little over a year and they are really great at supporting our overall wellness. Eliana has been battling an ear infection the past couple of days so she has been understandably cranky. Lavendar oil works like a charm on her when she is a bit cranky and needs to calm down. So why not incorporate some calmness into our play?

For our dough today I chose to add lavender oil and lemon oil (I love the smell of lemon oil plus it has so many other benefits… I encourage you to google it, actually while you are at it google both lavender and lemon oil). There are many other oils I could use and probably will try out in the future. Since I was doing this with such a little one I wanted to use vitality oils. Vitality Oils are Young Living’s oils that are safe if ingested. They are approved for internal use although I choose not to use them on Ellie that way.

If you are not already using oils and would like to start I would love to help you get started. You can click here to learn more about getting started with oils or you can click here if you want to purchase a specific oil.


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbs Vegetable Oil
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Measuring Tools
  • 2-4 drops Vitality Essential Oils ( Optional): I use Young Living Essential Oils because I know they are pure and trust them near my little ones hands. I also know that their vitality line is safe if my little one gets a bit of dough in her mouth with oils on it.
  • If you want colored dough you can use Kool Aid packets. These also add a yummy smell and aren’t dangourous if they make it into the mouths of little ones.

Directions: Pour all ingredients into the a mixing bowl and stir together. You may find that it is too gooey when you first mix the ingredients together; if that happens then slowly mix in a little more flour and a little more salt until you have the doughy consistency you want. That’s it friends, it really is that simply. I store the finished dough in plastic sandwich bags.

Areas of Early Childhood Development Supported by this Activity

  • Fine Motor: Fine motor skills for early child development focus on how children are able to manipulate objects around them by controlling the muscles in their hands and by using hand eye coordination. This activity encourages fine motor skills by having young ones practice dumping, stirring and mixing ingredients. It also supports them by having them manipulate the dough to create different things. I love how this activity naturally differentiates itself for different ages because depending on their development they may be mastering different fine motor skills when manipulating the essential dough.
  • Cognitive Development: This domain of early child development is focused on understanding logic, reasoning, cause and effect as well as early math skills. The process of making essential dough and playing with it helps little ones develop cognitively because they are practicing cause and effect. For example, what is the effect when ingredients are poured into the bowl. I built in early math skills with this activity as well by counting with Eliana as we added each ingredient to the bowl. For instance instead of using a one cup measure I used a quarter cup measure and as we added each quarter cup we counted 1, 2, 3, 4.
  • Social Emotional Development: Social emotional development focuses on how we interact with each other. This activity supports social emotional development by encouraging teamwork and turn taking as we work together to create something new.

I hope you 💕 this recipe as much as I do. More importantly I hope you and your family have a fun time together making it. Let me know what you thought about it below in the comments and if you enjoyed it please use our share buttons to help out your friends with some family fun.

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