Crafts · How-To's · Kids/Family

Play dough!!

I almost couldn’t believe it when my cousin Connie (mother of three and all around awesomely crafty person) told me that she made her first batch of home made play dough this Christmas.  It is so easy to make, super inexpensive, and your kiddos can help whip it up.  Here are the very easy steps:

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Assemble the ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour << UPDATE: my childcare provider suggested using CAKE FLOUR and it made it super soft and lasted longer.
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 Tbsp cream of tarter
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • food coloring

Add all the ingredients – EXCEPT the food coloring – to a medium sized saucepan and stir up a bit. I prefer to use a wooden spoon with a flat edge so you can really get in around the edges.

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Continue to stir over medium-high heat on the stove.  The batter will start to dry out as it heats up and transforms into dough.

IMG_8583Keep stirring, around and around, scraping it up from the bottom and sort of flipping it over.  This can become a bit of a work out, especially if you double the batch.  For that reason, I usually choose to just do two separate batches.

IMG_8584When it really balls up and comes away from the sides, it’s done.  It doesn’t have to look perfect (see above), any lumps or imperfections will be worked out in the next step.  It just should be a mostly uniform color and texture.

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Turn it out onto a piece of waxed paper or a wooden cutting board and let it cool down for about 10 minutes so you can handle it without getting burned.

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Once you are able to comfortably handle the dough, start kneading it.  If for any reason, you have the unfortunate combination of too high heat, kids screaming in the background, unsifted flour, and a fussy camera you’re monkeying with while you’re stirring, your dough might have some of these little flour lumps in it. It’s okay.  As you’re kneading, just pick them out and sprinkle them into the dough. 🙂  NOTE: This was a special holiday batch, so I also added about 2 Tbsps of iridescent sprinkles.  Completely unecessary, and 100% more fun for mommy than kiddos, but if your kids appreciate a little play dough bling, go for it.

This recipe makes about 6 cups of dough.  If it starts to feel too sticky, you can sprinkle it with more flour  until it feels right to you.  Once the large mass is fairly smooth (shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes), you can divide it into as many chunks as you want.  I usually make four pieces so I can have four different colors.

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I use Wilton gel food coloring for this recipe so you aren’t adding any unwanted moisture.  You can find them online or at any Michael’s Craft store. We used only a drop or two of light colors to make a pastel batch, but you can use a larger quantity and/or darker colors for a more vibrant result.

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Add a drop or two of your favorite food coloring to each lump and knead it in.  I find that the color distributes more evenly and quickly when I actually knead it on the board like I would bread dough.  You can just play with it in your hands, too.  It will take longer though.  This is something your helpers will LOVE to do with you.  And on a cold day, the warm play dough can be even more fun to play with.

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IMPORTANT: make sure the dough balls are COMPLETELY cool before putting them in an airtight container.  If there is even a little residual moisture (i.e.: condensation) it will ruin your dough.

That’s it!  It’s so cheap that when your kids mash it all together, or throw it out the front door, or just drop it in a big pile of Frito crumbs (hypothetically), there is no heartbreak.  Have fun!

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POST SCRIPT: This is not the approved method of coloring your play dough after-the-fact.  Thanks, Henry:

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