Mermaid Play Dough: Tactile Learning Activity

Bright colors, small parts, tactile learning and letter recognition all come together in this magical mermaid play dough activity!

I love homemade play dough. The texture is softer and I can make any color she requests! Since it only costs a few cents to make, I also don’t feel bad about it getting squished into shells or rocks or finding bits of leaves mixed in.

When I saw The Harmony Tree House’s post using play dough and crystals I immediately added it to our project list. Although we don’t have crystals, we have jars and boxes full of sea shells. I knew it would be the perfect project for my merbaby and so this mermaid play dough was created!

Making Mermaid Play Dough

To make our mermaid play dough I used the same recipe from our fairy play dough post. But I am going to break down the steps just a little bit more here because I did get some questions last time!


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup liquid watercolors
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 Tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • Small shells or rocks
  • Larger shells
  • Plastic pearl necklaces
  • Ocean figurines
  • Glitter (optional)

Personally I will use DIY watercolors for pretty much every project, but that is just because I really do not like food coloring and feel like no matter what I do it stains something. To make the water colors for this I take a cheap marker (the pack from the dollar store with the short and chunky ones is the best) and crack it open. I take out the ink casing and squeeze a little bit into the measuring cup and bam! Liquid watercolor. Anyone get in trouble for doing this in art class?? You can take the remainder of the ink and put it into another container with water and use later!

Mix all your ingredients together in a small pot. Get all of the lumps out so you have a smooth consistency.

On a medium heat setting consistently stir your play dough. You don’t want it to burn! I like to use a spatula so it can scrap the sides. At first it will be sticky but you will see places where it starts to turn a darker color as it gets more solid. When that happens start folding it into itself until it forms a ball, and then remove it from heat immediately. It cooks quickly, I timed it this time around and it was right at 3 minutes!

I then put it on a cookie sheet and spread it with my spatula so I can sprinkle glitter. You can let it cool on it’s own, or if your nap break gets cut short just pop it in the freezer for a few minutes until it’s cool.

Tactile Name Activity

Once I had the play dough and small pieces assembled I showed her the mermaid play dough. She of course was over the moon because blue and sparkly is her color. I let her play with the dough for a few minutes before having her roll a ball and then squish it so we could do the name activity.

To stamp the name I used her plastic puzzle pieces. I said the letters as I went, we definitely had a small disagreement about how B should come after the A! But once I finally could explain to her it was her name she let that go. Once all of her letters were stamped we traced the letters with our fingers, and then lined the shells carefully to form the letters. She enjoys doing these activities and has developed excellent fine motor skills and took her time placing each shell. After they were all complete, we said the letters one last time and then I let her have open ended play time.

Playing with Mermaid Play Dough

She had SO much fun with these small objects I was able to cook a whole dinner while she sat and played! Stamping the necklaces and large shells into the dough to see which shapes she could create was so much fun. She kept asking me to come over and feel the texture with her!

She also used the large shells to create beds for the plastic animals which I loved! I put the rocks in there unsure of what she would do and she tried to stack them. They weren’t very flat and she was getting frustrated so I showed her how to use the mermaid play dough as a “glue” and she kept stacking and stacking! Providing a mixture of objects is a great way to really experience your little ones creativity!

After she was done I put the play dough in an air tight container and put it in the fridge. She’s already asking me to make her purple dough so I’m going to have a new project soon!

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  1. This is such a cute idea, definitely going to try this with my girls!

  2. Very creative! I don’t know if I would have thought to combine every day objects with Playdo it certainly would keep the kids busy!

  3. Such a fun idea! I love the incorporation of sea shells!


  4. alunderfullife says:

    What a fun and cute idea! I can’t wait to try this at home.

  5. Mommy P says:

    This is so cool! It’s so much more exciting for our tots to see the process of making these crafts before playing with it. I’m going to save this for a special day with my 2 little ones 😊

  6. This looks so fun! Great idea! My son isn’t old enough yet for playdough, but I pinned it so I can come back when he’s older!

  7. Tyese says:

    You are so creative! Another great project I have to try!

  8. This looks like so much fun. My son loves play dough. We will have to make our own 🙂

  9. Oh, I love this.. so cute and creative! I def need to start making playdoh for my boys!

  10. The Cinnamon Mom says:

    Ok, so I love everything about this (and my 3-year-old will be overjoyed to play with it), but I never knew that marker trick! Such a smart idea that I for sure will be trying!

  11. I stumbled on this right on time. I needed something to do with my daughter today, and she would LOVE this.

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