Invitation to Play: Play-Dough Cupcakes


This sprung from some play-dough sets N and I have been making for Christmas presents (shhh, don’t tell anyone!) – asking her to make play dough and not play with it seemed a bit unfair, so we cooked up a huge batch with plenty to spare.  I say cooked, but we actually used the no-cook recipe from The Imagination Tree, which is our new favourite – really smooth and pliable.  We also used some of The Imagination Tree’s ideas for adding an extra sensory element to the play, with colours, flavourings and glitter.

That morning, we had made three kinds of play dough: chocolate (with cocoa powder), pink and glittery, and spicy orange (orange food colouring with ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon).  I set these out for N as an Invitation to Play – at making cup cakes.

I used a spotty tea tray and a miniature tea set as props, and added some biscuit cutters, small rolling pins and candles, along with some beads, candles, pom-poms and sequins for decoration.  I also set out N’s chef’s hat and apron which were part of a much-loved birthday present.

N adored this activity.  It was the single thing that has held her attention longer than I can remember.  N is a child who needs a lot of interaction to play, she rarely (read never) plays alone, and generally follows me around like a helpful little shadow, unless L is at home to play alongside or with.  With the play dough cup cakes, she was happy to play independently whilst I pottered in the kitchen within her sight.

She got so much out of this activity – and each time I thought she had finished, she would return to it and do something different.  There are endless possibilities, and she didn’t get bored of trying new techniques and designs (maybe she will grow up to love decorating cakes like me!)

Here are some of N’s creations:


You can see from the pictures what fun N had experimenting – and what great motor skills practice she was getting – there was rolling, pinching, moulding, cutting, making balls and sausage shapes and coils – I was really impressed by how hard she worked on her cakes.


She decorated them very carefully too, and came up with inventive ways of using the tools she had – like using the candle holder to make printed patterns on her icing


And after a while, I sat down and played, and we had a tea party together.  It was really good fun and went on for ages, with a huge variety of cakes being served.

F joined in and had her first experience of play-dough.  She didn’t try to eat it –  I was concerned about the salt content, and only hoped it would taste so unpleasant as to put her off!  but I did keep an eye on her obviously, and she was content to squish it and pull it apart – before moving on to banging two biscuit cutters together (they were plastic, without a sharp edge, again, she was supervised.  She also liked investigating the rolling pin.  And looked very cute indeed in a chef’s hat!


And in case you were thinking that pink sparkly cakes are just for girls, L was delighted when he came home to find the tea party going on, immediately joined in, and the two of them played really nicely together, which is always to be encouraged!  The play dough tea party is ongoing and is one of the first things they ask for.  We also managed to package up a few sets to send to friends for Christmas:

Play Dough Cupcake Gift Set

Play Dough Cupcake Gift Set

I hope they will have as much fun as we have!


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