Preschool Literacy Activity with DIY Play Dough Mats

This literacy activity is easy to set up with plastic lids and play dough.  Recycle the lids of plastic containers for fun hands-on play that engages fine motor and literacy skills in early learners.

play dough mats made with plastic lids

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What can be flattened and squished and rolled and stretched and yet stay the same? Play dough!

It offers so many play opportunities: build fences for animals on the farm; bake pretend cookies and pies; roll and stack play dough balls to make a snowman.

As a learning tool, it ranks high on the list of go-to materials for teachers and parents.

Here are just a few of the benefits that can be realized with this popular product.

  • It's an open-ended material, so there is no right or wrong way to play with it.
  • Little instruction is needed for kids to explore and experiment.
  • The clay supports early development skills such as fine motor and sensory.

Play dough mats are a popular tool for inspiring kids play. These homemade mats are easy to make with plastic jar lids.

Make letters of the alphabet, numerals, or shapes to prompt hands-on engagement.


Here are two easy play dough recipes for making play dough at home.

Play dough mat activities

Play dough mats can be used during small group time, or made accessible for independent play times.

The play can be largely child led.

  • Set out the lids and clay and let kids explore the materials.

  • Engage early learners in conversation about colors, sizes and shapes, along with letters of the alphabet.

: Activities using recycled jar lids


  • plastic lids
  • play dough
  • permanent marker


Print letters inside jar lids for a preschool literacy activity


Prepare the activity.

Write the letters of your child's name on the lids with a permanent marker, one letter on each lid.

  • The lids don't have to be the same. Using a variety of lids will add interest to the activity.

  • Letters can be in upper or lower case.


Roll play dough in strips to make letters


Form letters of the alphabet with play dough.

1. Make strips of dough by rolling with your fingers on a flat surface, or rolling between two hands.


Make shapes of the letters with play dough


2. Place the strips of play dough over the lines that make up the letters, then shape to form the letters.

  • Bend one long piece of play dough to form the letter.

  • Join two or three small pieces of play dough to make the letter.


For extended hands-on learning, you can add shapes or numbers to lids.


Label jar lids with letters numbers or shapes


Make play dough mats with numbers or shapes from plastic lids


Recycled crafts and activities are my favorites.

This one using jar lids is just another great way to repurpose items that might otherwise go to the garbage. The lids are easy to clean and store, and provide awesome kid-led play.

Look how it easy it is to create a learning game with just the addition of play dough.


Make letters of the alphabet with play dough


 Play Dough, Slime and More on Pinterest



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