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Putty Therapy for Building Hand Strength

Putty Therapy for Building Hand Strength

We all remember playing with playdough at preschool. Did you ever wonder why it was there? Of course not. It was too much fun! The only thing you cared about was when it was going to be your turn.

Teachers and therapists know why its important. So why not take this childhood activity and incorporate it into your recovery rehabilitation while you play with your children. There are many benefits to working with putty for the body, and mind.

Benefits of Using Putty in Therapy

Muscle development

The action of kneading, rolling, and squeezing the putty helps to build the small muscles in your hands and wrists. Those muscles help develop the fine motor skills used for writing, manipulating small objects, and improving your grip. Some people, recovering from a brain injury or spinal cord injury have difficulty with these tasks. Many people need to strengthen or relearn how to use these muscles.

Mood regulation

Putty is a wonderful way to relieve stress and change our mood. Often teachers will redirect children who are frustrated or upset to a playdough table. They can squeeze, pinch, roll, pound, and pull their frustrations out on the dough and not on their friends. Often, people with a brain injury have difficulty with regulating their emotions. Some recovery patients have found they are able to better regulate emotions when they engage their body in a physical and sensory rich activity, like working with putty.


What did you think when you saw the word playdough? Did you smell it, or remember the taste? Our senses play an important role in how we remember things. Senses can also bring back emotions associated with a memory.  Often, for people recovering from a concussion or TBI, emotions and moods can be impacted. Feelings of anger, depression and anxiety are common. The smell and sensation of playdough in our hands can help to bring back positive childhood memories that can improve our mood.

Stimulating our senses, and physical movements help to reshape the way your brain sends signals to your body. We can calm ourselves, strengthen our muscles, and change the way we think, and learn new things.

If you do not have putty you may want to start with some simple homemade playdough. You can purchase putty at rehabilitation supply shops in different strengths. The websites offer information about what strength to start with depending on your injury. Here is a link to how to use the putty for hand strength. You should always consult your therapist or doctor before starting any exercise.

Playdough recipe

  • ½ cup of salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp cream of tarter – do not skip this, it makes the playdough smooth and soft.
  • 1 package of Kool aid for color and smell – this is optional
  • You can also use a few drops of nontoxic essential oil, vanilla, cinnamon, or any other smell you like.


  • Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl
  • In a large pot add all the wet ingredients.
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients and stir constantly with a heavy spoon until mixed
  • On medium heat, cook the mixture, while continually stirring, until it forms a ball and comes away from the sides of the pot. Do not overcook the dough. It will continue to change consistency as you kneed it.
  • **Careful the dough burns if it sits too long in one spot or the heat is too high.
  • Take the dough out of the pot and put it on a counter to cool for a few minutes
  • When it is not too hot but still warm knead until smooth. Be careful it may still be hot in the middle.
  • Trick : Soak your pot in water and clean up is a breeze.
  • Store the playdough in an airtight container or bag at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Have fun!

PS. Do not worry the salt in the playdough is the secret germ killer.

Always ask your therapist or doctor before you try, or participate in any exercise. Make sure that using putty therapy for building hand strength is right for your injury and will not interfere in your specific recovery program. The blogs posted on this site are for information only, and should never replace or be used as medical advise.

How we can help you.

The lawyers at Wishart Brain and Spine Law want you to have the best recovery possible. Contact us today if you need help with an insurance claim after an injury, would like us to review a settlement offer, or if you would like to make sure the compensation offered will adequately cover your recovery needs. We are here to help.

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