Monday, August 13, 2012


I know the primary teachers out there will embrace this idea, but some of you intermediate folks may need a wee bit of convincing. 

So I’m here to convince you. ;)

I teach 3rd and for the past few years I’ve kicked off the first day of school with some Play Dough fun!!

What? Play Dough in 3rd grade???? Yep (and your 4th and 5th graders will love it too)!

It's a great way to start the first day of school at any elementary grade level. 

Here’s why:

The first day of school has all the makings to be chaotic (parents that want to hold conferences as they drop their child off, kids not aware of your expectations, procedures and routines, the arrival of the child who just moved into district and registered that morning, etc.). Even without the unexpected, there will be excitement of friends reuniting and an entire class of children wanting to thrust school supplies in your face. 

So you are going to want to have something planned that will occupy them all while you put out fires and prepare to take charge for the next 180 days.

  • Having a small baggy of play dough at each child’s seat will give them something to do at a time when they don’t have a clue what to do in their new room.  
  • Unlike a paper and pencil task, which may create anxiety in some students, ALL children can use play dough without assistance.
  • If a student is feeling nervous about the new year, the play dough is calming.
  • If you have friends who tend to wiggle, the play dough gives them an outlet.
  • Also, at a time when they aren’t sure what to expect, it sends a message that “this place is going to be fun!”

I usually give them some time to just knead, play and create as they wish while I get their supplies out of the way. Then I provide some direction. I ask them to create...

...their first initial
...something that represents their favorite thing to do
...their favorite animal

After each creation, we take a minute to share. 

Sometimes they share with a neighbor and sometimes I ask for volunteers to share with the class.

It doesn’t need to take too long, but it’s a great ice breaker and by the time I collect the bags (labeled with each student’s name and number), we’re ready to launch into the new year as  a class.

I put the same bags out on the next day as well, but typically start our regular routine on the 3rd day.

I do like to keep a batch of playdough in the classroom throughout the year.  The kids love using it for indoor recess and it makes great stations during math workshop (measurements, creating 3D solids, solving word problems). I also use it at time as a special treat during word study centers (with letter cookie cutters and stamps).

While I do make the first batch and put it into snack size baggies for each student before the first day of school, I ask that parents make it after that. This packet includes the recipe and letter that I send home along with the sign-up sheet I put out at Back-to-School Night.  It’s a great volunteer opportunity for working parents that still want to help the classroom in some way.

I've put together a Play Dough in the Classroom Packet that includes a recipe, sign-up sheet and note to send home with volunteers.This product was designed as part of my versatile, ink-saving Blackline Design Collection, but also includes a color copy if you are interested.

{click here to access and print the Play Dough in the Classroom packet}

Here are a few of the other things I do during that first week of school:

For more tips and ideas on organizing and managing your classroom please check out my Clutter-Free Guide. This post is part of:

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  1. Love playdoh and so do my students. Great post

  2. I love the playdoh idea! I downloaded the PDF and it seems that pae 6 is not related to the playdoh. I have a couple questions - is the recipe enough for a one student batch or the whole class? Also, when you have parents make playdoh is that for just one child or a class batch? THANKS!

    1. Hi! Thanks for letting me know about page 6. I updated the file to fix it. I usually double the batch and it's enough to make 24 small balls (enough for them use, but not a huge amount...bigger than a golf ball/smaller than a raquet ball). I just have the parents make one batch as it is only used at centers or for indoor recess. It lasts awhile, but there is a yick factor to that many hands using it so I try to change it out weekly or every two weeks.

  3. Thanks for the idea! I'll be using play-doh with my firsties on the first day, now :)
    New Adventures in First Grade

    1. Hey Michele, I'm so happy to hear that. Have fun! Jodi

  4. I love the idea but am this playdough as messy as the store bought kind? I wouldn't want to have to deal with a huge clean up on the first day with kindergarten and first grade kids!!

    1. Hi Heidi. It's not nearly as messy. I find the store bought one to be very crumbly and it gets everywhere. This one is much moister and holds together. You could even up the oil amount a little. Also, as I mentioned above, I only give each student a small amount so it stays neat. :) Jodi

  5. Thank you so much! I have playdough making Mums every month and your printables are WAY better than mine.
    I teach K and I love playdough. It's so cool that you use in higher grades.
    Heidi, It's not messy - you just teach the kids to 'pounce'. Holding some playdough, pounce on all the bits of playdough to get them back in the container. :)

    Thank you again for this freebie!

    1. Hi Michelle - Love the pounce idea. Thanks for sharing. :) Jodi

  6. love this idea of using playdough to start off the first day of school

    1. Hi Kristi! It's such a nice way to kick things off. Have a great year! :) Jodi

  7. This is great! Thanks for the idea.

  8. I love this idea nd I teach 5th grade. I would also like to know how much this recipe makes? One batch? Enough for the whole class?



    1. I double it for a class of 24 and give each student a small amount. I love that you are considering using it with 5th graders. They will think it's great! :) Jodi

  9. What a great idea!
    ❀Beth Ann❀
    Taming My Flock of Firsties

  10. Thanks Beth Ann! Good luck with your flock. :) Jodi

  11. I love the picture recipe. Every year I ask parents to volunteer to make play dough also. I usually just send home a half sheet with the recipe, but this makes it so the kids could help out too. Thanks

  12. LOVE this idea! How genius!
    Thank you so much for sharing!!

    Kelli :)
    Castles and Crayons

  13. I use playdough a lot in my room, too. I bought small containers and velcroed them to their desk. It worked great. I never thought of asking parents to make it though ~ great idea because I never remember to do it until Sunday night! Thank you for sharing your letter and recipe ~ I really appreciate it!

  14. You have me convinced! I teach 4th grade and even happen to have a couple of packages of the small individual playdough containers that I got on clearance at Kohls a year ago. I wasn't sure what we would use them for. Now I know! I'll be doing this next week with my new kiddos! Thanks for the suggestions!

    Hoosier Teacher

  15. What a great idea! I usually do a coloring page but I never thought about playdough. I will have to try it this week.

    Thanks for the awesome idea!

    Mr. Michelbook's Classroom

  16. I've done playdough for the first thing on the first day of school for about 6 years now. I love it for all the reasons you mentioned. I've never had students do something intentional (first intial, favorite animal) with it, though, so I'll add that element this year.

  17. Love this idea! I Can't wait to do this with my new second graders Thursday :)

  18. This is a gold medal plan! So smart to give them a little direction, too. I like to add a little glitter to the mix now and then. I find the homemade dough softer and way less crumbly. Can't remember the last time I made it. Plus I encourage the parents to involve the child, too. Nothing like watching it go from a liquid to a solid, and kneading it when it is still warm!

    Thanks for the great post!

  19. I made my playdoh this morning. My boyfriend made fun of me for making it instead of buying playdoh, but I rather enjoyed the experience. I also plan on using it as a lesson on properly following directions.

  20. Just made this about an hour ago and it turned out perfectly! (Unlike most of the other things I make from the internet, lol) I'll be using this tomorrow morning on my first day with my fifth graders!

  21. I LOVE this and will definitely be trying this on 1 September with a class of boys.

  22. I love this! My 7 yo and I made some tonight (well last night since it's well past midnight) for my 1st day on Monday and also some for him. I love how soft it is! We both enjoyed kneading the warm dough. I've made the no-cook play dough before. But love this version a lot better! Can't wait to share with my 3rd graders on Monday!

  23. I just made my playdoh to use with my fourth graders tomorrow on the first day of school. Often I have some sort of pencil and paper task. I like this because the other can be daunting for those struggling readers and writers. What better way to greet your kiddos on the first day of school...really...who doesn't love play doh. My own children...ages 13 and 16 kept playing with it tonight while I was making it :)

  24. Play-doh isn't only for little kids! I have been using it in my High School classroom to help students focus, works like a charm. Thanks for the information!


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