I’m addicted to play dough. Playing with it, cutting it, rolling it, but especially making it. Play dough is an excellent material for exploring a pliable 3-D media, and it has the potential to help a child exercise fine motor skills and develop their creative mind through play acting (i.e. making “cookies”).
When my daughter was 16 months we bought our first batch of play dough at Whole Foods. It was awesome. And expensive. And when the whole family came down with what felt like the swine flu just days after playing with the stuff, I knew I had to throw out the whole sad lot with the tissues and hand wipes. It was painful to fork out more money for another round of dough, and then a friend asked why I wasn’t just making my own. Right. Excellent question. I was an art teacher, and why had I never made play dough? Slightly embarrassed, I knew I had to set off and find a great recipe.
If you look around for play dough recipes you’ll find recipes that include everything from cornstarch to Kool Aid to peanut butter, but the one I’m sharing here is for the really good, traditional stuff. The recipe comes from First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos by MaryAnn F. Kohl, and it’s the only one I’ve used. So, do let me know if you have one that trumps it, but I’ll stand by the quality of this dough. The book, by the way, is fabulous, and I recommend it highly to anyone searching for excellent art activity ideas for little ones.
This will make enough dough for an entire preschool class. I usually make 1/2 the recipe and it’s still plenty! For two colors, divide the recipe in half.
- 5 cups Water
- 2 1/2 cups Salt — an entire container of Morton’s-style
- 3 Tbsp Cream of tartar — this can be bought in bulk at Whole Foods, or found in the spice section of big grocery stores
- Food Coloring: 1 tsp for pastel, 3 tbsp for vivid
- 10 Tbsp Oil — I use Canola, but any veggie oil should work
- 5 cups Flour
Mix, until the dough comes away from the edges of the pan, starts looking dry, and it becomes difficult to move the spoon. Pinch a piece between two fingers…if it’s not sticky it’s done. Remove from heat. Cool until it can be handled.
Place on counter and knead 3-4 times. Store in an air tight container or large Ziplock bag.