A Week of Dough Gym…

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I have had loads of requests for more information about Dough Gym recently so, rather than do one GIGANTIC post, I am going to do a Dough Gym post every day this week. By next weekend you will all be experts!

I first started doing Dough Gym as a Reception teacher way back in the Early 1990’s. In those days it was the policy of the school that I was working in, to start each day by getting children who couldn’t write their names to copy it through tracing paper.

It didn’t take me long to realise that there was a core group of children that were really struggling to hold their pencil, never mind recognise and write their name. For them these sessions were torture.

These children (who all happened to be boys) were missing lots of the stages of development that come before being able to triangulate and write, so, no wonder they were having difficulty!

That is where the idea for Dough Gym was born. Instead of taking off their coat and sitting down to their name card every day, they took of their coat, got their ‘membership card’ out of their drawer and did a session at ‘The Dough Gym’. A place to workout the muscles that you need to enable you to write.


Over the years I have tweaked it and refined it as my knowledge of writing development has grown. But, fundamentally the concept remains the same. It is now used in many schools and settings across the land and (when done correctly), produces excellent results.

So, (briefly) what is it? 

Dough Gym is a daily physical intervention that combines the use of large pieces of dough with a series of hand and finger exercises. These strengthen and develop children’s fine and gross motor dexterity, hand/eye coordination, proprioception, balance, low load control, grip and self esteem!

(If some of the terms above mean nothing to you, don’t worry – all will become clear as the week goes on).


It is fast pace, good fun and done in time to music. It is led by an adult who calls out instructions which the children then follow using their fingers, hands and/or dough. (A bit like a Zumba class for the upper body!)

It can be used on its own with a small group of children or as part of a daily whole class physical intervention (I sometimes do it as part of ‘Funky Fingers’. More on that later).


Whatever you do, and however you do it, it must be based on accurate assessment and linked to specific physical development. Just slapping, squeezing or poking a lump of dough in time to music might be great fun, but it will give you very limited impact – if any!

Okay, this is how the posts will work across the week.


Gross Motor Physical Development – What to assess 


Fine Motor Physical Development – What to assess 


Creating a Dough Gym – Activities and Exercises


Funky Fingers – Extending Dough Gym


Recipes – Using Malleable Materials for their Malleability

If you have any specific questions as the week goes on then ask them as a ‘comment’ and I will  do my very best to answer them for you.

Looking forward to our ‘Doughy’ week!


22 Comments on “A Week of Dough Gym…”

  1. These ideas look great. Looking forward to next week when you expand on them, as we have 20 boys and 4 girls starting in our nursery in September.

  2. Love your posts A!!!
    To get bright colours look for a product called ‘Brusho’ in the catalogues

  3. Thank you so much (in advance!) for these posts. In anticipation of recipes later in the week, does anyone know where you can get brightly coloured food colour? We used supermarket ones and they are all ‘natural’ now, which I’m sure is a positive move for children’s behaviour, but it makes horrible, insipid coloured playdough, especially if you’re making a big batch.

  4. I’m Looking forward to reading these posts and trying to establish something along these lines thank you for sharing

  5. Excellent. Need to buy more flour and salt. 😉 we usually have that amount to share between 4.

  6. I loved your Manchester Conference and am very eager to learn more about Dough Gym. Bring it on!! 🙂

  7. All good things come to those that wait! I’ve been doing Dough Gym since I attended your conference in Birmingham a while back but I must admit I am one of those that must be ‘just slapping, squeezing or poking a lump of dough in time to music’ particularly if it is 1D!
    Thanks Alistair in advance I am looking forward to learning more and indeed sharing this with colleagues.

  8. Excellent, I’m really looking forward to this week of posts, I’ve been wanting to know more about dough gym for ages!

  9. This is an excellent idea Alistair! I would love more information. We have just introduced funky fingers to our reception classes.

  10. Looking forward to seeing this have learnt so much from your visit and following your posts. I hope to show my staff so we as a group can help our new kids have fun develope and reach their potential.

  11. Perfect timing – on Friday we were just talking about our children who weren’t yet ready to hold a pencil and the sorts of things we could do. Can’t wait for the posts.

  12. Looking forward to reading these posts as judging by what I’ve seen so far in my new YR class this could become an essential part of daily routines 🙂

  13. Can’t wait! We were due to start our own funky fingers this week but I’m going to wait and pinch all your ideas and tips…again! Thanks,

  14. Hi Carly,
    Video is coming soon! I did have some that I had done in settings, but didn’t get permission from all of the parents of the children so had to delete it. I am now just working on the time to fit it in and the technology to do a decent job!

  15. I am really looking forward to reading these posts throughout the week..so much so that I just sent a very excited email to my colleague about them! Is there any way you could upload a video as well?

  16. Ooh looking forward to these posts. so far we’ve been learning some of the exercises and which part of our body is working or should I say, should be working!!!

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