Engineering with Playdough

Engineering with Playdough

Short description
Full description
Short description

Creative Preschool Engineering with Playdough

Type of resource:  Website

Web address

Supporting video:

Language: English


Creative Early Years Engineering with Playdough and Pasta

Scientific concept introduced

Designing and Making

Creative and critical thinking

Critical Thinking:

- Analysis

- Inductive reasoning

Creative Thinking:

- Imagining

- Designing

- Making

Mathematical reasoning

Problem solving with 3D shapes

Spatial Awareness




Scientific thinking

- Questioning
- Estimating and measuring
- Predicting
- Exploring
- Planning
- Decision Making
- Making
- Evaluating
- Recording

Learning how to learn

- Self-efficacy in learning
- Fun in learning
- Learning collaboratively
- Problem solving


- Oral language - listening and following instructions
- Hand-eye coordination
- Fine motor skills
- Collaborative skills through group Work

Full description

Creative Preschool Engineering with Playdough

Overall aims

● to enable pupils to explore skills involved in designing and making (engineering skills) with pasta and playdough
● to develop pupils’ skills in listening and following instructions
● to develop pupils’ skills in estimating, measuring and problem solving with shapes
● to develop pupils’ skills in turn-taking
● to develop pupils’ creative thinking skills such as imagining and designing
● to develop pupils’ skills in self-assessment

Vocabulary - keywords should be understood

Pasta, playdough, smooth, hard, round, soft, building, monument, shape, tall, small,
high, low, wide, narrow, thick, thin, square, rectangle, triangle, circle

Expected learning outcomes (operational aims)

The child will be enabled to:

- follow instructions
- use the vocabulary of shape and space to describe structures
- explore their materials - pasta and playdough
- build simple structures (through free-play and guided) using pasta and playdough
- talk about their work - the process of construction and the final structure created
- work together in small groups

STEM skills - to which the learning unit is related to


Problem solving with shapes
Spatial awareness

Decision Making


Hand-eye coordination
Fine-motor skills
Oral Language
Group work – collaborative skills
Self-efficacy in learning

Teaching methodologies/activity outline


(Ask pupils to work in groups).

Materials: (per group)

  • Playdough (enough for each group, ideally with different colours)
  • Uncooked pasta (use 3 different types e.g. spaghetti, fusilli, penne, rigatoni, farfalle.)
  • Large sheet of paper
  1. Assign pupils to work in groups of 4, giving each group a set of materials.
  2. Ask pupils to ‘Pass the Pasta’, taking turns to pass the different types of pasta around the group and to describe how each type of pasta looks and feels.
  3. Then ask each pupil to take some playdough and compare it to the pasta in how it looks and feels.
  4. Inform pupils that they’re going to be using playdough and pasta to do some building challenges.
  5. Ask pupils what ‘to build’ means – elicit that this means putting materials together to make a building (structure), like a building or a monument.


  1. Ask pupils, in their groups, to list (draw) on their page, as many buildings (structures) as they can think of, for example, a house, a school, a tree house, a castle, an igloo, a farm barn, a skyscraper, a pyramid, the spire in Dublin, the Eiffel tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Use a mind map to discuss these in terms of space and shapes, for example, tall, small, high, low, wide, narrow, thick, thin, square, rectangle, triangle.
  2. Ask pupils to discuss how building a castle might differ from building a house.
  3. In groups, first give pupils a few minutes for free play with the materials. Ask pupils to think about which type of pasta would be good to build different types of structure, for example, tall, small, wide, narrow.
  4. Then ask pupils to complete different building challenges (problems), using their pasta and playdough, for example:
    - Build a tall structure – can you make it taller without it falling down?
    - Build a wide structure – how could you make it narrower?
    - Build a bridge – how can you make it wide/taller?
    (Guide children as necessary in estimating and measuring.)
  5. Take time to discuss how pupils tackled each of the challenges, for example, noting which types of pasta worked best on particular challenges; counting how much pasta they used; what types of pasta was used; what worked best, what didn’t work well.
  6. Finally ask each group each to work together to plan (draw a rough draft) and then build a structure, giving pupils some parameters, for example, it must include:
    - An opening (a door, window)
    - More than two levels
    - A circular shape
    - A step


  1. Ask each group to present their Pasta and Playdough structure to the class – discussing the materials used; why they used certain pasta; and how they assembled the structure. 
  2. Ask groups to discuss what was best about their structure, as well as how they would improve it the next time. 
  3. Ask pupils, working individually, to draw a picture of their group’s structure. How did it compare to the group’s plan?

Assessment of learning

Pupil observation sheet, photo of each group’s structure.

Equipment and materials to be used in learning unit (tools, ingredients etc)

Playdough (enough for each group, ideally with different colours)
Uncooked pasta (use 3 different types for comparison e.g. spaghetti, fusilli, penne, rigatoni, farfalle.
Large sheet of paper

Kind of setting

Kitchen or classroom

References - source

Other linked website:


Creative Preschool Engineering with Playdough

1. Usefulness for STEM education - integrating content of different disciplines

Cross-curricular character of the resource 


The range of S-T-E-M subjects included 


The presentation of possibilities of including artistic activities (STEAM approach)


2. Expected learning outcomes

Consistency (links) with preschool core curriculum


Communicativeness of description


3. Methodology of teaching

Clarity, communicativeness of instructions for teachers


Meaningful learning - using practical life problems


Original idea 


The level of ease in implementing the methodology to preschool age children


The level of ease in preparing necessary ingredients, materials and equipment needed


4. Sustainability

Ecological characteristics of materials/ results


Supporting healthy eating habits 




Low ecological footprint


Possibilities of inclusion (respecting cultural diversity and food intolerances)


5. Class management

Using differentiated forms of work - individual, team work etc.


Individual work





Team work





Whole group




6. Time management


Short activity (10-15 minutes)




Medium activity (20-30 minutes)




Long activity (1 hour or more)




Very long activity (1 day or more)


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