My girls love the tactile art experience that is sculpture–or, rather, they love goofing around with modeling clay and play dough of all kinds. Sometimes they’re really interested in creating a specific piece, and sometimes they simply enjoy feeling their hands moving through the material, I think, but for whatever reason they, like most kids, go through a lot of modeling material.
I tend to choose to make our modeling materials for a few reasons. I’m much happier spending a hour in the kitchen every few weeks mixing up several batches of natural play dough than I would be spending that hour driving to the store and back for Play Doh. My girls always help make whatever material I’m mixing up at the moment, which is a precious experience in itself, and also allows them to create exactly the color, scent, and texture that pleases them the most. The price difference between homemade and store-bought is unbelievable, and with homemade, there’s no plastic packaging to throw away and no artificial preservatives to worry about.
Whether you’re a complete homemade play dough newbie or you’re looking for the next exciting recipe for your little connoisseur, I think that you’ll be inspired by the following five recipes. With many of them, you’ll find that you already have all the ingredients in your pantry, so you’ll be able to get started right away!
The most basic natural play dough recipe is plain white flour play dough. You can mix it up super-cheap with the least expensive store-brand white flour that you can come up with, or go uber-natural with organic white flour. White flour play dough takes minutes to make, and kids universally love it.
Once you have a basic play dough recipe, you can embellish it in an infinite number of ways. The dough can be dyed with food coloring (both cheap food coloring and professional-grade food coloring work well) or natural dyes, and can be scented with anything from perfumes to essential oils for aromatherapy play dough.
You can leave it plain, or add glitter, colored sand, or spices to it. Longing for a violet-colored rosemary-scented organic white flour play dough with glitter and dried rosemary mixed into it? Go make it!
Of course, you do get to play with clay even if you’re gluten-intolerant. In that case, homemade doughs are vastly better than store-bought, simply because you know what’s in them!
There are gluten-free alternatives to white flour play dough, such as this gluten-free cornstarch dough from 5 Orange Potatoes. This is a fabulous dough to try out even if you’re in love with white flour dough, because this cornstarch dough takes watercolors beautifully, allowing you to paint your creations with vivid colors.
[The image courtesy of 5 Orange Potatoes.]
Somewhat like modeling chocolate, marzipan, or fondant, but more user-friendly, edible play dough is the gold standard sculptable snack. It’s often used as simply the best snack ever, but edible play dough can also make up the edible decorations on a birthday cake, or be molded using muffin tins into Willie Wonka-style edible bowls.
Edible play dough recipes tend to be fairly similar–Jane Maynard from Make and Takes offers two great peanut butter play dough recipes–but Becky Striepe has several ideas for customizing the flavors in her standard chocolate play dough recipe to make your own unique combinations.
For a very different creative experience, make it a point to try something new. For instance, if you’ve never worked with modeling beeswax before, check out our modeling beeswax tutorial for instructions and a complete recipe for making your own version.
The beautiful colors and workability of modeling beeswax may make it one of your favorite art materials ever, but it does take effort to warm the wax and get it started. Try out the tip from Little Acorn Learning to warm your modeling wax in a bowl of warm water, and you’ll be able to move straight to the fun.