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How Old Should My Toddler Be to Play with Playdough?


Playing with Playdough

Playdough play should wait until around 2 years of age.

tandemracer / Flickr
Question: How Old Should My Toddler Be to Play with Playdough?
How Old Should My Toddler Be to Play with Playdough?
Answer: Commercial playdoughs (like Hasbro's Play-Doh or Crayola Dough) are soft and pliable and come with an age recommendation of 2 years and up. Harder clays usually have an age recommendation of 5-6 years or higher because they pose a larger choking risk. Homemade playdoughs are also soft and malleable. You can introduce these soft, homemade doughs to your child around 2 years of age.

Why Wait Until a Child Is 2 Years Old?

There are several reasons to wait until your child is older:
  • Oral Exploration Decreases: Your child is less likely to want to continuously put the playdough into her mouth or eat the playdough after the age of 2 since her desire to explore things with her mouth is decreasing. Playdough ingestion is mostly harmless. However, it becomes more of a problem with a younger child who is more likely to eat a larger quantiy of dough and physically weigh less, thus making ingredients like salt more of a toxicity risk.
  • Verbal Understanding Increases: As your child gets older, they understand more of your verbal commands and explanations. An 8-month-old is less likely to understand "Stop" or "No" than a 2-Year-Old. Even with some verbal understanding, a younger child may not put as much importance on the command as you'd like. In addition, a 2-year-old is more likely to begin grasping why eating playdough is unacceptable (as she starts to understand cause and effect).
  • Greater Compliance to Parental Requests: With all that verbal understanding comes a greater chance that your child will actually comply with your requests to stop putting playdough in her mouth. And while that request is an important one in terms of safety, there are other requests you're going to want your toddler to comply with as well. (A few requests I can think of, off the top of my Mommy head: Don't throw the playdough. Don't stick the playdough in your ear. Or your nose. Don't smash the playdough into your brother's hair. Don't step on the playdough that you just dropped on the carpet. And never, ever feed playdough to the dog, who, unlike a toddler, will actually like the taste.)
  • Less Chance of Reaction to Ingredients: Commercial playdoughs are made with wheat ingredients as are most homemade types. Homemade types may also contain honey (which shouldn't be consumed by children under a year old), peanut butter (highly allergenic for some), and other ingredients that your toddler may not have been introduced to. Waiting lessens the chance of a reaction.
  • More Developmentally Appropriate for Age: Outside of any safety concerns with playdough, it's not likely that your child will have the cognitive or motor skills to really enjoy or gain much from playing with playdough until she's around 2 years anyway. In fact, playdough might bring her more frustration than fun. (A good pre-playdough activity for younger babies and toddlers are these feelie bags. Like playdough, they encourage motor skills and offer tactile stimulation.)

Constant Supervision Even at 2 Years

Even though the age recommendation is 2 years, a child this age will still need constant supervision when playing with playdough as with any toy that has the potential to cause choking or induce poisoning, no matter how unlikely it seems. Every toddler toy and activity is made safer by a parent's watchful eye.

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