Gettin’ Crafty in the Kitchen: Making Play Dough

Kids love play dough. There is no getting around it. If we’re being honest here, I’ll confess that I love the stuff, too! The store bought sort is pretty pricey, though. It comes in those plastic containers and contains preservatives to prolong its shelf life. On top of all that, I’m betting that the chemical dyes that turn it those lovely colors are none too natural. There are some more natural alternatives out there, but nothing beats making your own from scratch!

Luckily, making play dough is fun, easy, and you can even get your kiddos involved! My mom teaches preschool, and I still remember helping her make big batches of play dough during the last weekend of every summer vacation. We’d hang out in the kitchen, mixing and measuring ingredients. She’d even let me stir it in the pot while she supervised. I’ll admit that we did use that spooky food coloring that comes in the plastic squeezy containers, but I did a little digging and found some alternative coloring options that I think you’ll really dig. Enough reminiscing….let’s make some play dough!

Play Dough Recipe

  • 1 cup organic flour*
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • food coloring

Mix everything up except for the food coloring. Add the coloring drop by drop, and get creative! One of the best parts of making play dough is mixing up colors to see what you get!

In a large soup pot, stir the mixture over medium heat until it thickens, trying to squash out any lumps. Remove it from pan and carefully knead it until blended smooth. For the kneading, you’ll want to make sure it’s cool to the touch all the way through before you let the kids play. The surface can feel perfectly fine but have a burny center, so be careful!

Store the play dough in an airtight container when it’s fully cooled. It will last ages if you don’t let it dry out!

*If you or your child is gluten-sensitive, try substituting a gluten free flour, like Tom Sawyer All Purpose Gluten Free Flour. You may have to tinker with the recipe a bit, since gluten has some binding properties. Adding corn starch might help, or you can try this home made gluten free flour mix!

You’ve got a couple of nifty options to color your play dough without the conventional food coloring. If you’re not into making your own dye, check out these natural, gluten-free, plant-based food colorings from Seelect! If you’re feeling like a from-scratch purist, it’s much cheaper to make your own dyes. There are some great suggestions for home made dyes over at Eco Child’s Play! Those dyes are intended for Easter Eggs, but they should work just fine for this. Just replace some of the water in the recipe with your home crafted dye, and don’t be afraid to experiment! You may also want to use a natural fixative, like they describe in this post over at Pioneer Thinking to make sure your play dough doesn’t turn your kiddos’ hands (and clothes, and your table) bright colors!

Peanut Butter Play Dough
Oh, peanut butter play dough! What a treat! It would be impossible to write about home made play dough without at least mentioning this easy, edible option! It’s a little on the fatty/sugary side, so you’ll probably want this to be a special-occasion thing.

  • 1 cup organic peanut butter (You could even experiment with different nut butters.)
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 2 cups organic powdered sugar

Using your hands, mix everything up in a large bowl, or let your child do the mixing. That’s it! Sculpt the dough into food shapes and eat!

Image Credits:
Play Dough Sea Monster. Creative Commons photo by Tim Pierce
Beet It. Creative Commons photo by Darwin Bell

4 thoughts on “Gettin’ Crafty in the Kitchen: Making Play Dough”

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