If you’ve only ever used commercial PlayDoh, you might find people who swear by homemade play dough to be snobby. But I promise you, once you make (good) homemade play dough you will never ever want to buy commercial PlayDoh again.
Not only is homemade play dough cheaper, and incredibly easy (it takes longer to pick out PlayDoh at the store than to whip up a batch), you will not believe how delicious homemade play dough smells and you will start noticing how plastic and truly nasty the commercial stuff smells. I also find the commercial stuff to be really prone to breaking off into small bits that just work their way into carpet fibers!
And if you have younger artists, you may be more comfortable with them “tasting” something that you know all of the ingredients of, rather than something with an ambiguous “nontoxic” label (but no ingredient list). I do have some commercial PlayDoh, in case Ella asks for additional colours and I’m a bit too busy to whip up a batch.
To get you started, we’ve had incredible success with:
- Amanda at Not Just Cute’s AMAZING Cinnamon Play dough
- Glow-in-the-dark play dough
- Apple Play dough
- Pumpkin Spice Play dough
- Black glitter play dough
- Bubblegum play dough
- Marshmallow Play dough
- Cocoa Play dough
- Lavendar Play dough
- Jell-O Play dough
- Kool-aid Play dough (cook and non-cook)
- Frosting Creations Play dough
- Rose Water Play Dough
(I’ll list more as we experiment further!)
While I try to add fun extras to our homemade play dough recipe to keep things interesting, my basic cooked play dough recipe which I sometimes deviate from but usually just add to is:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 T oil
1 T cream of tartar
1/2 cup boiling water
PLUS any fun extras
I love play dough as an accessible sensory/art material, because it can be stored in (labeled) easy-open containers on Ella’s art cart, and most of our homemade play doughs have lasted in our (above room-temperature) living room for one or two months without diminishing in quality. (The ones that used artificial scents had their scents fade faster than ones made with spices or food stuffs.)
I also like how open-ended it is and how its a “messy” activity that Ella is comfortable with and that doesn’t need to be closely supervised. She can use it in kitchen play; on her light table; in loose parts/nature table play; in artistic modelling; shaping into shapes, letters, etc.
Tips for a successful batch everytime:
- Only use all-purpose flour, if possible; I have attempted two whole wheat and one spelt flour recipes, and they have all been horrid — flaky, sticky, ugly messes.
- Make sure that your ingredients are relatively fresh — no two year old cream of tartar 😉
- I personally prefer cook recipes, as many no-cook recipes don’t bind as well and stick/flake more. A really good no-cook recipe can be found here.
- Watch it and don’t multitask — its done quick!
- Mix the dye into the water or oil before adding those to the recipe, to ensure even colouring
- Use REAL spices whenever possible
- Use washable colouring
- If your batch is too sticky, despite adding extra flour, microwaving and kneading, and also refrigerating for a couple of hours can help a bit, but a bad batch is sometimes just that, and its important to remember that kids aren’t nearly as playdough-judgemental as we can be!
Please share your favourite playdough recipes or explorations!