The first day of school each year is always filled with a lot of emotions. It’s often a mix of excitement and nerves. As a teacher, I always try to make the first day special and come up with a memorable first day of school activity.
It is important to me, especially this year, that children are happy to be at school and activities are as engaging as possible. This first day of school activity is my favorite and always a highlight for my students.
Although I used this activity at school, it could easily be done at home at any time of year! Kids love play dough. They will create and build and play with it for hours.
Try out this creative idea to do with play dough!
This is a very simple activity, but there is something almost magical about it and it always brings a smile to my students’ faces.
I love it as a first day of school activity because it is a great way to have each child think about, and share, their hopes and wishes for the year.
For more back to school activities visit 35 Best First Day of School Ideas.
Memorable First Day of School Activity Materials
For this activity, all you need is white dough and colored dough. I always purchase the same type of white dough each year because it works great for this activity. (Link below).
- White Play Dough
- Coloured Play Dough (You need at least one colour, but can use many colours).
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First Day of School Activities – Preparing Your Dough
To start, I rolled the dough into balls. You can make them any size you want, but I like to make sure each child has enough to play and create with. Roughly at least the size of a ping pong ball.
Next, flatten each ball of white dough like a pancake.
Roll a smaller ball, of coloured dough, and place it on the white ‘pancake’ dough. Wrap the white dough around the coloured dough so that you cannot see any of the coloured dough.
The ball should now just look like a white ball of play dough.
To do the activity, you will also need to roll white balls of play dough the same size as the white balls with the special colour inside of it. Children will play with the dough first to see that there is nothing special about it. It is just white. Then you switch out the solid white dough for the magic dough.
Magic Play Dough Activity
I always start by handing out a ball of solid white dough to each child. At first, I tell them that there is something magical about the dough, but before we add the magic I give them a chance to play with it. At this point it is simply a ball of solid white play dough.
This is also nice for the first day because it gives each child something they can each do, and enjoy, while I get everyone settled on the first day.
I typically have small plastic containers, or plastic baggies, to store the dough in when children are not playing with it. This year they will each have their own container to store their dough in.
Once I know they have all had a chance to play with the dough, I have them store it in their container. They have the option to come back to it at times when they have completed their work.
I often have them start adding some color to an All About Me page.
Free All About Me printable, available. Link at bottom of this post.
Next, the magic! When children are out of the room, I switch their white dough with a new ball of dough. I make sure that the storage containers are identical and switch it for the “magic” dough.
(You may need to ask children to roll their dough into a ball before storing it in the container, so that when you switch it, it looks the same, just in case they have created something before storing it.
Also, you can simply open each container and switch out the dough, but if you are trying for less contact, switching the whole container is best.)
Make sure the the balls are roughly the same size.
Memorable First Day of School Activity
When children return, I have them hold the container, or the dough, without squishing it. They will assume it’s still just the same plain white dough they played with before.
Memorable First Day of School Activity
As they hold it, ask each child to think of something that they hope for, for the year. What are they excited about? What do they want to happen?
This is a great way to find out a little bit about your group of children. You will discover what they are looking forward to and hoping for for your year together.
I typically give each child the opportunity to share what are hoping for with the class. It is a great way for kids to get to know each other and hear from each other.
Once everyone has shared their ideas, everyone holds the dough between their hands and whispers their wish into their dough. I tell them if their wish was heard, something special will happen.
In past years I have even sprinkled some sparkles over the dough before it is squished to reveal the color. Everyone counts to three and then squishes their dough.
As they begin to squish and play with the dough, the color inside begins to show. There is a very exciting feeling throughout the room when the colors start to appear.
Everyone knows that the dough had only been white, because they had all played with it before, so the new color inside must be magic!
This is a wonderful way to start a new year and always the highlight of the day. Sometimes I have students take the dough home with them to tell their parents about.
Other times, we keep it at school for the first few days as a hands-on calm down activity. It is a simple activity, but is a perfect first day of school activity.
Back to School Activities
If you are looking for more exciting activities to start your year, below is a collection of fun, creative and simple first day of school activities.
First Day of School Day Plan
The first day of school takes a lot of planning and organization. I have created a resource for teachers for their first day of school. A detailed lesson plan along with printables and more! This is the actual lesson plan that I use for my grade 1/2 class on our first day. If you liked the magic dough idea, this is just one activity included in the day plan.