Mini Art Lessons offer open-ended opportunities for caregivers of young children (under age 8) to explore art concepts playfully and intentionally.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Best for Ages 2–5
Adult Supervision Optional

This edition of Mini Art Lessons is an invitation to play with texture using playdough and a few simple materials. Mini Art Lessons offer open-ended opportunities for caregivers of young children (under age 8) to explore art concepts playfully and intentionally.


What is an invitation to play?

A few materials are set out in a way that encourages exploration and play. The materials are carefully selected to have multiple possibilities when combined together. This results in prolonged periods of play, meaningful learning, and a break for the adult in charge!

What might kids learn? This activity helps children:

  • Explore the tactile properties of different materials
  • Learn new words for types of textures and specific materials
  • Use problem solving to make creations that combine different parts


Talk: What is texture? Have you ever felt something soft? Hard? Bumpy? Gritty? Slimy? Talk together about things you know that have these textures, or take a scavenger hunt around your home or yard to find objects with different textures. As you touch each object, use words to describe its texture.

Look at this artwork. What do you see? Do you notice any areas that look bumpy or gritty?

White, tan, and black brushstrokes in random patterns on canvas.
This painting is called Painted on 21st Street and is by the artist Helen Frankenthaler. In addition to paint, she used plaster, sand, and coffee grounds in this painting, creating a very textured surface.


Rocks, popsicle sticks, a feather, and playdough lie on a red mat. Leaves, netting, tin foil, and dry pasta surround the mat.

Find the right space. For this activity, a table will work best. If you’d like to contain the mess, a tray or mat provides a defined work space.

Set out the materials in an inviting way. Set a ball of playdough in the center of a mat or tray. Arrange a variety of objects around the playdough in clusters.

Choose objects with different textures. We used ridged pasta tubes, leaves, small toys, rocks, aluminum foil, a feather, and a produce net (the kind onions and potatoes are packaged in).

Introduce the materials and talk about their properties.

  • Show your child the materials. Touch the surface and describe how it feels. You might use the following words: smooth, bumpy, rough, ridged, veined, scratchy.
  • What will happen when the materials touch the play dough? Make a few impressions. Try turning the object in different ways to see what happens. Is it the same or different

Eight mounds of blue playdough with varied indentations. Aabove each mound is the object used to create the indentation, including a feather, tin foil, leaf, and rock.

Invite your child to play. Use these tips to guide the experience, or take a much needed break, and simply let them play! 

  • Hold back. Only set a few materials out at first, then introduce new materials. This will help extend play and make the activity last longer.
  • Watch your child for a few minutes without talking. Observe closely. What activities and materials is your child most interested in?
  • Play alongside your child, without instructing. Pick up a material and press it into the dough. Try another. Make patterns or combinations. Your child may get interested in your actions, or not. If not, let them continue with their own play.

Make observations and ask your child questions.

  • Describe what you see.
  • Will you tell me about what you made?
  • What do you like about it?
  • Why did you choose to ______?


Want to do more?

Some children might use the pieces to create characters, settings, and stories, turning this into a storytelling activity. Take photos of your child’s story or write down their words. Read them back together later like a book.

Or, try these KIDS at Home activities and keep the conversation about texture in art going: Pumpkin Pinch Pots, Naturally You!