When Is My Toddler Old Enough for Play-Doh?

When your child is ready & how to keep them safe

Caucasian girl playing with clay
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Play dough is just plain fun. It's probably something you played with as a kid, and now you can pass it on to your toddler. Like any toy, however, play dough poses a few risks, so it's recommended that you wait until your child is 2 years old before you introduce it.

Hasbro Play-Doh and Crayola Dough come with an age recommendation of 2 years and up. Play dough is soft, pliable and nontoxic, making it great for the younger set.

 Homemade play dough is also soft and malleable, and it's pretty easy to make. Harder modeling clays are typically recommended for children at least 5 years or older because they pose a greater choking hazard.

Why Wait Until a Child Is 2 Years Old?

Your child is becoming smarter and learning new skills every day, so there are several reasons why you should wait to introduce play dough until your child is a bit older:

  • Oral exploration decreases. Your child is less likely to want to continuously put play dough in their mouth or eat play dough after the age of 2 since their desire to explore things with their mouth is decreasing. If your child does decide to put play dough in their mouth, it's probably harmless. However, it can be a problem if your child doesn't weigh as much as they should and consumed a large quantity of play dough, which can make even the most basic ingredients like salt a toxicity risk. While it's unlikely that your child will eat an entire batch of play dough unbeknownst to you, you should still know the risks.
  • Verbal understanding increases. As your child gets older, they understand more verbal commands and explanations. An 8 month old is less likely to understand "Stop" or "No" than a 2 year old.
  • They start to comply. With all that verbal understanding comes a greater chance that your child will actually comply with your requests to stop putting play dough in their mouth. While that request is an important one in terms of safety, there are other requests you're going to want your toddler to comply with as well, like "Don't throw the play dough;" "Don't stick the play dough in your nose;" "Don't smash the play dough in your brother's hair;" "Don't step on the play dough that you just dropped on the carpet." Never feed play dough to the dog, who will probably like the taste.
  • There's less chance of allergic reaction. Commercial play dough is made with wheat ingredients, as are most homemade varieties. Some homemade play dough recipes call for honey, which should never be consumed by children under a year old, peanut butter and other ingredients your toddler may not have been introduced to. Waiting lessens the chance of a reaction.
  • It's more developmentally appropriate. Of course, the safety concerns of play dough are important, but it's also not likely that your child will have the cognitive or motor skills to really enjoy or get anything out of playing with play dough until they are around 2 years old anyway. In fact, play dough might bring them more frustration than fun. A good pre-play dough activity for younger babies and toddlers are feelie bags. Like playdough, they encourage motor skills and offer tactile stimulation.

Supervise, Supervise, Supervise

Even though the age recommendation is 2 years old, a child this age still needs constant supervision when playing with play dough, as with any toy that has the potential to cause choking or induce poisoning, no matter how unlikely it seems.

Every toddler toy and activity is made safer under a parent's watchful eye.

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