Let’s make some play dough!

Play Dough

Sensory activities are very important for children. They help their brains tangibly relate to the world, calm them down when they are over-stimulated, and bring out the artist in each of us. A simple sensory activity that you can do at home is play dough. I grew up with my mom making play dough and I wanted to carry this tradition down the line. It’s simple, cheap and exciting for kids to watch flour transform into a blob of play dough.

Play dough recipe

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 cups water
2 tablespoons oil
4 teaspoons cream of tartar
Food coloring (natural plant-based food coloring)

1. Combine all ingredients in a pan and stir. Cook over low heat, stirring until a ball forms.
2. Set on foil and let cool for a minute.
3. Separate dough into equal parts. Add food coloring and knead thoroughly until desired color.
4. Store in covered container (we use old Play Dough containers and tupperware).

Play Dough
Basic ingredients (the cream of tarter forgot to make an appearance).

Play Dough
When you combine all the ingredients, this is what it looks like at the beginning (a little funky).

Play Dough
Yet as you continue to stir it over low heat, it binds together and starts looking like play dough.

Play Dough
I like to fold the play dough up a little so that when I put the food coloring in it there is a place for it to pool up (I like a lot of food coloring!). Just be careful when kneading it that it doesn’t squirt out.

Play Dough
These are the colors the play dough turns when using basic food coloring (I bought mine at Target).

Play Dough
My daughter, Clare, loves play dough with cookie cutters, a rolling pin, plastic knife, and random plastic cups. My four year old son, Jackson, likes to make sculptures out of play dough, like snowmen and bowling pins. We just got a Play Dough Burger maker for Christmas, yet they don’t even like using it (go figure).

Common mistakes:

1. Tampering with the measurements: I have done this and it makes a difference. The texture and stickiness is off and it just isn’t good.
2. Not heating through: Make sure the play dough is on the stove long enough for the salt to dissolve. Some recipes say to take the play dough off the stove once it is warm, but that doesn’t work for me. It leaves a granular texture if I do that (which you can actually see in the picture over!). Keep cooking slowly until it is a smooth consistency.
3. Wearing nice clothes: You don’t want to get food coloring on your nice shirt, so throw on an old shirt just to be safe.

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25 Responses to Let’s make some play dough!

  1. Didi January 6, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    You could add the food coloring to the water rather than directly onto the play dough if you were going to make one color. Less risk of ruining the clothes or staining skin. Such fun memories from long ago!

    • familysponge January 6, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

      That’s a great idea. Then there is no skin contact and no worry about the food dying mess. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Jenn January 7, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    We use a very similar recipe but add 1-2pkts of kool-aid for scent and color instead of food coloring. It is non-staining, smells great for months, and gives a nice rich color (orange, lime, grape, cherry, black cherry). Others are more pastel in color but have great scents as well 🙂

    • familysponge January 7, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

      Jenn, I would have never thought of kool-aid. Such a great idea. Brings me back to my childhood when I would rip the kool-aid packet open and smell it. Thanks for sharing such a great tip. -Jadah

  3. Victoria Langley February 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    My grandma used to do this for us, we really do need to try and pass down the old ways to our kids really. such fab ideas x

  4. raissa petri October 11, 2013 at 9:01 am #

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    about how long should the whole process take?

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