Play-Doh has been charming kids since the 1950s — but believe it or not, the modeling compound (no, it’s not technically clay) was originally invented as a way to clean soot off wallpaper. As people switched over to electric and gas heat, wallpaper no longer got sooty — and the fate of the company making Kutol looked bleak. Then someone had the brilliant idea to make it into a toy for kids, and one of the most iconic American playthings was invented.
While modeling dough doesn’t behave like clay (as anyone who has tried to dry their creation can tell you), it does offer tons of benefits to kids. Besides facilitating imaginative play, the soft compound is great for young hands and developing fine motor skills. Plus, it’s relatively inexpensive and just fun to play with. While you really just need a few jars of the stuff to get started (or a recipe to make your own!), accessories can really enhance the creative fun. Plus, things that extrude, shape and mold give kids more chances to explore, learn and grow. Many basic sets can be used for way more than just modeling dough. Kinetic sand, mud, foam and regular clay can also be used. The tools themselves can be relatively simple; the limit is your kid’s imagination.
Ready to get squishing and shaping? We’ve rounded up some of our favorite play dough accessories.
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1. Play-Doh Fun Tub
What more can we say? It’s a tub and it’s fun. The big plastic bucket (which is also great for storing) comes with five colors of Play-Doh and 20 accessories. Kids can play with extruders, cutters and molders as well as use a blunt “knife” to cut the dough. Just be aware that the five included cans of dough are on the smaller side: If your kids are really enthusiastic, you may want to purchase a set of full-sized cans, too.
2. FRIMOONY Dough Tools for Kids
There’s a little bit of everything in this big 45-piece set: holiday-themed cutters, spoons, rollers, extruders and even a spatula. In other words, kids can mold and shape as well as play chef as they slice and dice the dough. Thanks to the big number of accessories, it’s also great for groups of kids. Made from a lightweight, non-toxic material, they’re intended for kids age 3 and older.
3. Melissa & Doug Cut, Sculpt, and Roll Clay Play Set
Another great starter kit, this set from Melissa & Doug comes with four small tubs of modeling compound and seven tools for cutting and shaping. Each lid also has a mold in it with different objects like a bear and an airplane that can be saved and used long after the original dough has dried out. The blunt scissors also provide a great way to practice cutting — and one cuts in a zig-zag shape. Once play time is done, everything can be stored in the included wooden box.
4. Play-Doh Numbers, Letters, N’ Fun
This set of eight mini doughs comes with accessories that can provide hours of entertainment: The 36 molds let kids shape numbers and letters. Practice number and letter recognition, or spell words. Kids can press words and letters into the flattened dough (the easier option) or cut out the letters and move them around. Each mold has a handle for little fingers. The set also comes with a blunt knife for cutting.
5. Alex Art Wooden Dough Tools Set
It’s rare to find play dough accessories that aren’t all plastic, but they’re out there. This set from Alex Art features eleven sturdy tools that include patterned rolling pins, carving tools, and a cutter. The included tray is also great for storage. Designed for small hands, the tools are also open-ended and abstract enough to foster imaginative play and expression.