Our students are often surprised to discover we make all our own play-dough. I tell them: you should make all your own play-dough!! It’s cheaper, it’s much nicer texture to work with, and shapes much better than commercial PlayDoh. It also doesn’t dry out as quickly. Plus, I hate the smell of commercial PlayDoh… when you make your own, you can leave it unscented – my preference – or you can add scents with a few drops of essential oils. And making a batch takes only 15 minutes from start to finishing clean-up… or a little longer if your little one “helps.”
There’s LOTS of recipes out there. Here’s the one that works well for me:
Mix together: 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 2 tbsp. cream of tartar, 4 tbsp. oil (note, 4 tbsp. is the same as 1/4 cup)
Boil 2 cups water
Mix in separate container: 1.5 cups of the boiling water plus food coloring – make the color STRONG! (I used Betty Crocker Gel in my last few batches, and found I used 1/3 – 1/2 a tube in a batch)
Mix the colored water in with the other ingredients. Stir well.
Then spread a thin layer of flour on a counter or cutting board. When it’s cool enough to touch, place the dough on that and knead it. What you’re trying to do is create good, consistent dough that’s just the right texture for kids to play with. If it’s sticking to your hands, add a little flour. If it’s too dry and crumbly, add a little hot water. (It’s a little different each time – if the weather is really humid, or really dry, that affects the dough.) Knead till it’s just right. Usually takes a few minutes. When not in use, store in a ziplock or a closed plastic container. It keeps for weeks or months, depending on how frequently it’s used.
Recipe 2 – A recipe my co-teacher Cym likes has slightly different proportions / ingredients, but the process is the same.
3 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 2 tbsp. corn starch, 4 tbsp. cream of tartar, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 cups boiling water, food color.
While I’m sharing recipes, another Cym recipe that we use a lot is her cocoa cloud dough. Mix together 1.5 cups flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, and 1/4 – 1/2 cup of any edible oil (canola oil, safflower… whatever you’ve got.) For a big batch, 6 cups flour, 2 cups cocoa, 1 – 2 cups oil. How much oil you use depends on the texture you want. We use this in the sensory bin to simulate dirt so we want it pretty crumbly (it looks like dirt, but it won’t hurt any little ones who decide to eat it! and it smells good. See pictures on my other blog, Inventors of Tomorrow, here and here.) If you want to shape it more, use more oil.
Learn more about cloud dough at Babble Dabble Do.
You can play with play-dough directly on most tables, but if you’re worried about your table, you can put out a plastic tray, place-mat or table cloth to play on.
In class, each week, we put out new tools with the play-dough. Using a variety of tools teaches small motor skills, strengthens hand muscles (helpful for learning to write), and teaches life skills. Here’s just some to try: rolling pin, cookie cutters, garlic press, a plastic knife, kid scissors, spatula, pizza cutter, pastry cutter, melon baller, wooden hammer, napkin rings (can cut circles of play-dough), a cup or container they can press down on dough to flatten a circle of dough, rubber stamps to press impressions in the dough. You can also mix other toys in with the dough – like plastic animals to leave footprints in the dough, toy trucks to leave tire tracks, shapes from a shape sorter tray, etc.