Kids love the feeling of mashing, rolling, squeezing and molding soft dough. A huge market exists for commercial modeling play, and modeling dough instruments. But the smell and clean up of the marketed products can be too much to handle sometimes. A natural mama feels inclined to go the homemade route. Is homemade play dough easy to make, and is it worth it?
- Better for the Earth – no packaging in landfills (the #1 brand of play dough in the US cranks out 100 million canisters each year!)
- Saves money – a large batch of homemade play dough can be made easily with staples already in your kitchen pantry
- Easy to make – my favorite play dough recipe takes less than 10 minutes to make start to finish
- Easy to clean up – can be wiped away with a warm wet cloth
- Kiddo competition – it seems siblings will bicker over dough and tools no matter how much of either you have
When I was in junior high and high school, I was a regular babysitter for a very dear family in my church. I started looking after their little girl around her first birthday. One of my favorite things to do with her was to was to mold play dough. The mama of this family is amazingly crafty and made homemade, red, strawberry scented play dough. The dough was soft, smooth, and easy to play with. It didn’t leave my hands with that weird coating and smell you get from store bought dough. She told me her secret to the great color and scent was flavored drink mix (i.e. Kool-Aid). I loved it! And I tucked away this great idea for when I had kids of my own…
15 years later it was finally my turn to make play dough for my little one. I searched the web for Kool-aid playdough recipes, wanting to emulate the exact dough I’d enjoyed so much as a teenager. After trying several versions, I settled on a cream of tartar based cooked dough, finding it to be the easiest to make. I’ve also heard that the cream of tartar has a preservative effect, allowing the dough to last longer. Best of all, I had all the ingredients in my pantry. (Well, all except the Kool-aid, we had to do a special pick up for that one).
- 2 cups of plain flour
- 2 cups of water
- 1 tbsp. of cooking oil (I use coconut oil)
- 1 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 cup of salt
- 1 packet of flavored drink mix (for color and scent)
- Place all of the ingredients in a medium size or large pan.
- Cook slowly on medium-high and stir it until the playdough thickens.
That’s it! It’s super easy because you do all of the mixing while the ingredients are still dry. It thickens up quickly and easily in the pan. It will be lumpy and goopy for a little bit, then even out to a fully cooked lump of dough. It reminds me somewhat of making scrambled eggs. This whole thing is done in less than 10 minutes (cooking for less than 5). You get a lump of dough the size of a large grapefruit.. (see instructions with photos here).
I keep it in a plastic container with a snap lid. The kids love playing with it, and ask for it often. I’ve found it’s easy to clean up – just wipe it up with a warm wet cloth, or sweep up the crumbs after they dry. It smells great (not weird) and molds easily. Each batch lasts for a couple of months. I know it’s time to make a new batch when it starts getting a little sticky. My son likes getting to choose which color we make next, and I love seeing his little dough creations becoming more and more sophisticated. Yay for homemade!
Have you made play dough? What’s the secret to your favorite recipe?