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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  1. Hi! I was wondering what books you guy read? This looks like a great activity! And for some reason I am not receiving the emails. I found this on my bloglovin feed.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Bridget,
      I hope you get to try this activity out, it was tons of fun. The books we read were Planet Earth / Inside Out by Gail Gibbons and Amazing Space by Olivia Evans (book pictured in post). I’ll let Malia know you are having trouble receiving the emails. I hope this helps!

      Best, Noirin

  2. So, a few years ago, I did an activity with sixth graders where I read a narrative that had instructions in the narrative that they followed using play dough and the end result was they had a model of the layers of the earth. I though I got it from this website. Did I?

  3. I love the things you do with your children. I teach a Science Enrichment class to 2nd graders and would love to do your graham cracker plate tectonics lesson with them. Can you please tell me the title of the book that your children are looking at in the Layers of the Earth and the Plate Tectonics posts. I need to purchase some materials to introduce the topics.

    Thank you for sharing your creativity and lessons.

    1. Hi Joanne,

      What a fun activity to do with your class1! The books we read were Planet Earth / Inside Out by Gail Gibbons and Amazing Space by Olivia Evans (book pictured in post). The books we read for the Plate Tectonics were from the public library and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t mention them in the post! I can’t remember what they are now. Honestly I checked out every book in the juvenile section on the subject and found the ones with the best illustrations to show my kids. Sorry I don’t have the specific titles!

      I hope your class has a blast!


  4. I did this activity, Layers of the Earth, with my daughter years ago and it was a success. I was wondering how many earths can you make with this recipe? Also, does it dry out? I can’t remember.

    1. Hi Angela,
      This recipe is for one earth because we divide the dough up before coloring it.
      Yes, it can dry out, but placing it in an air-tight bag will help it last longer. Hope you enjoy!
      Ashley // Happiness Ambassador

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