What better way to learn about the layers of the earth than by making a playdough planet?! With just a little bit of prep, kids will be able to explore the layers of the earth hands-on. It’s the perfect combination to our action packed Landform Activity Pack!

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Layers of Earth playdough ball

I began by asking my 5 year old, A, what she thought Earth was made up of.  “Rocks, water, and gases like air,” she replied.  She was thinking of the ground and atmosphere – I was impressed.  We read a couple books to find out exactly what the inside was made of and then I told A, and little brother, Q, we were going to make the layers of the earth using playdough. Their faces lit up!

Earth Playdough

Making the Playdough

For this activity, we simply cooked up a batch of our favorite One-Pot Playdough and divided the dough to make six different colors: blue, green, red, orange, yellow and brown.

To make the dough, we added all the ingredients to a pot:

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 6 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 3 cups of water

Earth PlaydoughWe mixed until all the lumps were gone and then I moved the pot to the stove and cooked over low heat, stirring often.  The dough started to thicken in a few minutes.

I turned off the heat once the batch started pulling away from the sides (but was still a little sticky) and allowed it to cool in the pot. Once cool, the stickiness disappeared and the dough could be kneaded and dyed.

We divided our cooked playdough into six parts: two small (golf ball-sized), two medium and two large balls. We dropped several drops of food coloring into each ball. The two small balls became red and green, the medium balls were dyed orange and brown and the large ones we dyed yellow and blue.

Earth Playdough

Building the Layers of Earth

Now it was time to create the layers of the earth!  We started by rolling the small red dough into a ball.  This served as Earth’s solid inner core, which is almost as hot as the sun!

For the next layer, my 5 year-old flattened the medium-sized orange dough and placed it around the red ball.  I helped her pinch the sides closed, removing any extra dough in the process.  This layer is the liquid outer core that spins creating Earth’s magnetic field.

Next,  A flattened the large yellow ball to create the mantle. This is the thickest layer and is made of very, very hot rocks.

Earth Playdough

A flattened the medium brown ball and placed it over the yellow ball.  The thin brown layer represented Earth’s crust made up of rocks.

Finally, A flattened the blue ball and covered the earth in ocean.  I helped A form the continents (the land we walk on) using the small green ball of dough.  A giddily held Earth up while singing, “I’ve got the whole world in my hands.”

Layers of the Earth Playdough

Now came the really fun part – cutting the planet in two.  The easiest way to do this is using dental floss.  Both A and her little brother were amazed when I cut through the Earth.

Earth Playdough

At this point we could have stopped to label the layers, but since A corrected me when I made a mistake naming a layer, I knew she didn’t need the labels.  Plus, my 2.5 year-old just wanted to play with his half of Earth.  With all those colors, who could blame him?!

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