One of my kids’ favorite play dough activities was our Oatmeal Cookies Play Dough years ago, so I thought I’d make another Bake Shop Play Dough Activity inspired by one of Ella’s favorite desserts! This Lemon Meringue Play Dough includes so many fun sensory experiences and learning opportunities in one simple set-up.
Lemon Meringue Play Dough Recipe
Ella has long been my little chef.
She’s been helping out in the kitchen since she could stand and ever since our trip to Montreal, she’s informed me that she plans to move there and become a professional chef the minute she turns 16.
I still get her to myself for a few more years, so to indulge her culinary side this week I prepared this simple bake shop sensory play set-up.
While I’m a huge fan of baking with kids, letting them engage in baking pretend play allows them to experiment and make their own rules rather than follow instructions and be limited in their play. I’m always so impressed with the ideas that my daycare kids come up with in their pretend play.
While I love doing Montessori Practical Life trays for my daycare, I think play-based invitations are always a wonderful idea.
Bake shop pretend play provides so many learning experiences, including:
- hand strength and fine motor skills
- scientific concepts like observing, experimenting and noticing changes in matter
- language building by using descriptive words to describe the different materials and their play
- social and emotional development in playing cooperatively with others and using observational skills to emulate the tasks and interactions that they’ve witnessed in bake shops (or even in their own kitchens)
- math concepts like contrast and comparison, shape identification – and even further, they can experiment with numeracy concepts if they want to “charge” for their creations
Beyond these skills, kids can practice using everyday kitchen tools that will prepare them for the next time they get to help with baking. Learning how to use measuring spoons, rolling pins or other materials in a play-based set-up allows them to experiment without having to worry about wasted ingredients or a recipe failing.
Ella LOVED this play dough activity and was so excited to share it with our daycare kids the next day – and funny enough, instead of emulating a baker she seemed to emulate me! Watching her introduce the different materials and how to use the shaker can or rolling pin gave a cute insight into how she sees me when I show them new kitchen skills.
You can alternatively use our lemon play dough recipe to make a lemonade stand pretend play set-up for the kids.
Check out our quick video on how to make homemade play dough, and then don’t forget to scroll down to grab your free printable recipe – and see all of the ways we played with this homemade lemon play dough!
Check out the bottom of this post for more bake shop play ideas or lemon sensory play ideas.
Ingredients for Lemon Play Dough
- Vegetable Oil <– you can use melted coconut oil but if it’s cold where you are, it will make the play dough a bit tough at the start of playing (will soften with the heat of hands playing)
- Cream of Tartar <– I buy the big container or from a bulk store as those little jars are so expensive! A bulk container will last us for months of play dough making – and can also be used for soft sugar cookies, snickerdoodle cookies, etc.
- Lemon Extract <– gives this play dough a much stronger scent than lemon juice would
- Lemon Food Coloring <– this set of food coloring has lasted me forever and I love that it creates highly saturated colors with just a drop
Scroll down to the printable recipe card for full measurements.
Materials We Used in This Bake Shop Set Up:
- Measuring Spoons <– while the bright color was a bonus, what I really liked about these measuring spoons was that they had their measurements in big, clear numbers for the kids
- Rolling Pin
- Shaker Can <– I filled this with a mixture of flour and cinnamon
- Small Pie Plate
- Bowl of Shaving Cream plus Plastic Knife
Tip: While the kids really enjoyed the addition of the shaving cream, it will make the play dough too messy for future uses so you can skip it if you’d like.
Other Materials You Could Add to this Pretend Baking Set Up:
You can add really any kitchen materials that are safe for the kids to play with and are easy to clean up after they’re done.
- Wooden or Plastic fruit (something easily cleaned)
- Citrus Juicer
- Offset Spatula
- Piping Bags
- Cookie Cutters <– we have this giant pack and use it for everything from baking to play dough (and then crafts like this)
- Cake Server
How to Make Lemon Meringue Play Dough
Place the water in a saucepan and stir in the oil, flour, salt and cream of tartar.
Turn heat to medium and stir constantly. The play dough will start forming a ball and sticking together after about 2-3 minutes.
Remove from heat and fold out the dough onto a floured surface.
Allow the dough to cool enough to touch, and then knead until smooth, about 2 minutes.
To Set Up Your Bake Shop Invitation:
Clean a playing surface and set out all of the kitchen tools.
Put the shaving cream in a bowl and fill the shaker can with a combination of flour and cinnamon. (I used flour to help the cinnamon “go further” as I knew the kids would love shaking out the “cinnamon” and I didn’t want to use an entire container of cinnamon in this activity.)
If you have any “rules” for this sensory play, let the kids know in advance. For us, the rules were just no tasting and keeping the materials on the table. (While the lemon play dough is taste-safe, the shaving cream and raw flour used in the cinnamon mixture are not.)
Then, let them play!
This was so much squishy, sensory fun and the kids were all so proud of their creations! They loved all of the different textures and getting to make up their own “recipes.”
There was some serious price gouging going on when a couple of them tried to sell me their pies – but luckily they haven’t tried to collect on my debt yet.
Grab your free printable for our lemon play dough recipe and how to set up this bake shop play dough invitation:
- 2 cups Water
- 4 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 2 cups All-purpose Flour, plus extra as needed
- 1 cup Salt
- 4 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
- 2 teaspoons Lemon Extract
- Lemon Food Coloring, as needed
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Spatula or wooden spoon
- Cutting board
- Place the water, food extract, food coloring and oil in a saucepan.
- Stir in the flour, salt and cream of tartar.
- Cook over medium heat until the dough starts to form a cohesive ball.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool until comfortable to touch.
- Knead on a floured surface until no longer sticky, about 2 minutes.
- Set the play dough out with the materials listed in the note below for a lemon meringue play dough invitation.
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Barbasol Original Thick and Rich Shaving Cream, 7 Ounce, Pack of 6
Rhode Island Novelty 7.5 Inch Wood Child Rolling Pin, Six per Order
Farberware Color Measuring Spoons, Mixed Colors, Set of 5
Cream of Tartar, 2 Cups by Unpretentious Baker, Highest Quality USP & Food Grade, Better than Restaurant Quality, Non-GMO, Kosher, Gluten Free, Vegan, Slotted Cap Spice Shaker
McCormick Pure Lemon Extract, 2 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)
More Kitchen Pretend Play Ideas:
- Edible Ice Cream Play Dough or our Ice Cream Play Invitation
- If You Give a Pig a Pancake Math Activity
- Cookie Shop Dramatic Play (including printables) from Play to Learn Preschool
- Oatmeal Play Dough Cookies
- Play Dough Pizza Pretend Play from Teach Me Mommy
- Apple Pie Sensory Bin
More Lemon Sensory Play Ideas:
- Pink Lemonade Play Dough Invitation
- Minion Lemon Soap Foam Sensory Play from And Next Comes L
- “lll” is for Lemonade Jolly Phonics Activities