Design and Construction for kids with Pasta and Playdough

May 9, 2015

Here is a simple little activity, quick to set up, that can have children busily creating for ages.

When I set out this invitation-to-play with playdough and pasta, it was with the intention to use it to further our interest in building and design. We talked about architecture and the different ways buildings are made these days. If you like, you can have a look at our engineering activity and use the pictures of different buildings as inspiration.

This activity can encourage creative thinking, problem-solving, fine-motor skills, literacy skills, hand-eye-coordination, mathematical concepts, design, concepts of gravity and more.

At the bottom of the post you will find more ideas for how you could use this activity to suit your child and/or learning objectives. Alternatively you can leave it as the inviting open-ended activity that it is and leave it up the kids to see where they will take it. Either way, it's just simple, fun, play and learning.

Ages: 2+

In the end I assisted my 3 year old to finish this little tower. He tried and persisted but got quite frustrated that he couldn't get it to stay up and eventually asked me to help. We talked about how we needed a bit more playdough between each piece and to press them firmly but still gently together. (Not an easy task for a 3 year old) :)
He was very pleased with his overall design at the end. (Though I was lucky to quickly snap a pic of it as he enjoys destroying things as much as he does creating them these days!)

Handy Tips:

- Simplify this activity by allowing younger children to press and poke the pasta into the playdough. Just picking up the pasta and sticking it into the playdough is great for their fine motor skills and hand-eye-coordination. Squeezing, rolling and manipulating the playdough is great to strengthen hand muscles and you can also introduce some basic counting by counting out small groups of pasta pieces.

- Extend this activity by:

  • Challenging children to build the tallest construction they can using only playdough and pasta
  • Having the children first draw a design and then attempt to replicate. If any, what issues/problems did they have? How could they be solved?
  • Asking children to write about or sketch their finished design
  • Using it to focus on patterning with children. Use the pasta pieces stuck in or imprinted in the playdough to demonstrate different patterns.

- We used this playdough recipe. It's the one we use in all our activities and is a favourite because it's quick and easy to make and lasts for months.

- Instead of pairing your playdough with pasta, try playdough and blocks! Bricklaying for kids!

-You could colour your pasta using this method. Adding in coloured pasta pieces will add a different artistic and creative element to the experience.

- For this activity we used some stale and broken pasta pieces we found in the back of the pantry that may otherwise have been thrown away. After using pasta in our play, we store it to be re-used in other activities. If you have concerns about using food for play and learning, this article is a good read.

- This engineering and architecture activity using toothpicks and mini-marshmallows is also a great one for kids interested in building and design.

More fun activities using playdough and basic materials:

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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