Every parent of small children knows that play dough is basically the gold standard for toys that your kids can play with for hours on end. Nothing else can keep my kids attention for so long… or so peacefully. On top of that, play dough can be one of those fun learning opportunities that can help with different concepts without bashing the kiddos over the head with them. Color mixing? Easy peasy. Measurements? Fun both while you’re making the dough, or even after you’ve made it with lots of different cups and spoons. Got a two-year-old who wants to cut with scissors like her brother, but can’t figure out how to cut paper and winds up screaming in frustration? Play dough to the rescue… it’s easy to cut with some plastic play dough tools.
The only downside of the stuff is that it tends to dry out pretty quickly and it gets pricy when you’re always buying new ‘doh. Enter this recipe for homemade play dough. And not just any recipe… seriously the best I’ve ever tried. It’s just like the brand-name stuff, except I think… maybe… better? It’s softer, easier to shape, and doesn’t have that weird smell. And as a bonus, my kids love making things together in the kitchen, and since we’re not eating this dough, they can really dig in and get their hands dirty without me getting too squirmy. And it keeps forever in the fridge. Months and months.
And the possibilities are endless. You can make this dough any color you’d like, or add glitter, or drop in some essential oils to make it smell good (just make sure they’re kid-safe, mmmk?). Last year for my son’s birthday party, I was at a loss to come up with an activity for a bunch of 3 year-olds that would fit in his construction theme. So I just made a huge batch of this play dough, dyed it green, brown, gray, and black (you know, grass, dirt, gravel, and asphalt) and gave each kid some mini construction vehicles to dig it up, roll it flat, etc. The kids LOVED it, and along with the vehicles, the play dough made a fun, inexpensive party favor for them to take home when they were done. On the flip side, if you’re wondering what kind of gift you get for a 2 or 3 year old, a big batch of this play dough, along with one of those play dough tool kits I mentioned before would be sure to be a hit and played with for years to come.
I got this recipe from Imagination Tree. It really is the best we've ever tried! Head over there for lots of ideas on adapting this recipe in fun ways!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup table salt
- 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
- about 1.5 cups boiling water (it may be a little more or a little less depending on your flour)
- food coloring (optional)
- a couple drops of vegetable glycerine (optional)
- In a large bowl (especially important that it's large if you're letting the kiddos mix- less chance of spills!), combine the flour, oil, salt, and cream of tartar. Slowly stir in the boiling water until incorporated.
- Turn out the dough onto the counter and knead it as you would a bread dough. If you're using food coloring and/or glycerine, knead it in as you go. Keep kneading until it's smooth and not sticky. (If it's still sticky after a few minutes, add a bit more flour.) Voila! Play dough!
- Store play dough in airtight containers or ziplock bags in the fridge for several months.