Making Homemade Play Dough Review – Is it Worth it?

5 out of 5 leaves

5 out of 5 leaves

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?

The Good

  • 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

The Bad

  • Kiddo competition – it seems siblings will bicker over dough and tools no matter how much of either you have

My Experience

Beautiful lumps of homemade goodness waiting for the creativity of little fingers

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).

All you need for easy, fun home made dough.


  • 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?

Shared at Monday Mania, Homestead Barnhop, Better Mom Mondays, One Project at a Time, Titus 2sday, Living Green, Women Living Well, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Wildcrafting WednesdayYour Green Resource, Simple Lives Thursday, Rural Thursday, Farmgirl Friday, Frugal Friday, LHITS DIY
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14 Responses to Making Homemade Play Dough Review – Is it Worth it?

  1. I’ve made Playdoh several times, but never tried the Koolaid in it. Aren’t little ones more likely to eat it then?

    • Victoria says:

      Hey Lisa, the kool aid adds a color and scent, but not much flavor (remember kool aid the drink tastes great because of all the sugar you add to it). I’ve seen my 1 year old sneak a little bite of the dough, but she spit it right back out. I imagine it’s super salty tasting.

  2. Becky says:

    I’d love to give this a try, but make it with natural food coloring instead of Kool Aid. I’m sure I could just use the base recipe and add beet juice for red and find some other options for other colors. Thanks for sharing this idea! I am stopping by from the Live Renewed blog hop. Have a great week!

    • Victoria says:

      Beet juice could be a cool idea! I wonder if it would be color fast. Please come back and share how it worked!

  3. Nancy says:

    My mom used to make something similar for us many years ago. Great to see it is still popular!

    Thank you for sharing at Rural Thursdays this week. 🙂

  4. Fun idea! I’ve been thinking of making play dough. I’m totally pinning this.

  5. Bonnie Way says:

    My mom always made homemade play doh for us and I’ve also tried it for my daughters. I find it’s a bit softer than store bought play doh (so easier for small fingers). Thanks for the recipe! 🙂

    • Victoria says:

      My mom wasn’t very crafty, so playdoh was a special thing we did when visiting friends. Isn’t it great to provide a fun homemade toy for your own kids? 🙂

  6. Dad says:

    Are other flavors of drink acceptable?
    Such as Green or Yellow, for those like your nephew who is Red Dye allergic?

    • Victoria says:

      Yes! You could use any color kool aid: green, blue, yellow. Although I found yellow lemonade did not really add any noticeable color or scent.
      You could also try adding essential oils like lemon, peppermint or lavender for scent, and try natural coloring like beet juice for red or purple cabbage juice for blue.
      Most importantly, if your little one has an allergy, don’t let him play with the dough until he’s old enough to know not to taste it!

  7. Oh this looks like so much fun, my son would love it! Would you mind coming by my Creative @ Home Wednesday link up party and share it, I know my readers would enjoy it bunches!


  8. sondra says:

    When my son was in kindergarten, the playdough table was stocked with homemade playdough. I got to be the mom who made it. 🙂 I kept the recipe and always made it for my children growing up. Ours only used food coloring (Kool-aid is a great idea!) but it was so much fun to play with when cooled off but still slightly warm. With the added bonus that if your kids happen to eat a smidge of it, no worries, everything is edilble anyway.