Have you ever made your own play dough? While I’m a fan of store bought dough (it’s so easy!), making your own is a money saver and we can make TONS of it in minutes. And with the simple addition of a little pumpkin pie spice, our dough smells heavenly…just like pumpkin pie!

diy pumpkin pie playdough

Also, this is first on our big Family Fall List of 50 things to do this autumn, so check!

Inspired by The Artful Parent’s Autumn Arts and Crafts book, The Artful Year: Autumn, we made this seasonal scent that’s perfect for autumn: Pumpkin Pie!

Pumpkin Pie Playdough Recipe…

Playdough is a wonderful material for building fine motor skills, developing imaginations through exploratory play, and supporting early engineering and building skills. This recipe rivals anything store-bought.

I used our favorite play dough recipe, which also happens to be the favorite of my daughter’s awesome preschool class (and the BEST play dough recipe, hands-down), so I’m not going to get experimental with the dough itself, but we did experiment with the spice combination. 

The dough itself takes about 20 minutes to prepare, it cooks on the stove-top, and the key ingredient is cream of tartar. If you can’t find it locally, cream of tartar is on Amazon, of course (affiliate).

Yes, you can find 2-minute dough recipes like this no-cook dough, and I’d encourage you to use them if you’re short on time, but the benefit of this recipe is that it will last for ages. Ages. I kid you not.

diy pumpkin pie playdough


  • 5 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups salt
  • 3 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 10 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 5 cups flour
  • Food coloring or liquid watercolors
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice, or a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom


  1. Mix everything but the food coloring together in a large pot until somewhat smooth. It will be lumpy. Not to worry, the dough will get smoother as it cooks.
  2. Cook the dough over a low heat. Mix frequently. The water will slowly cook out of the mixture and you’ll notice it starts to take on a sticky dough appearance.
  3. Keep mixing until the edges of the dough along the side and bottom of the pan appear dry. Pinch a piece of dough. If it’s not gooey, the dough is ready.
  4. Place the dough on a counter top or large cutting board or cooking tray that can withstand a little food coloring.
  5. Knead the warm dough until it’s smooth and then divide it into the number of colors that you’d like to make. We divided our in half: one orange and the other white.
  6. Flatten the ball, add a little bit of food coloring, and knead it in. Add more food coloring to get the desired shade.
  7. Store the dough in a large Ziplock bag or sealed container. Unused, it’ll keep for months.
"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie Play Dough | TinkerLab.com

After we made the dough, I placed it on the counter to cool. Meanwhile, my 2-year old worked away at pinching out a real pie crust.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie Play Dough | TinkerLab.com

When the dough was cool to touch, we squeezed orange liquid watercolors on half of it and then kneaded it in. For this step, be sure to mix on a surface that won’t absorb the watercolors. My 4-year old wanted to make half the dough orange and half of it white.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie Play Dough | TinkerLab.com

Although we had planned to use a jar of pumpkin pie spice in the dough, my 4-year old was curious about using whole spices that we just bought, so we pulled out the coffee grinder and gave it a very loud whirl. Fun! I don’t have a proper nutmeg grinder, but this seemed to do the trick. And the smell of cardamom — I absolutely love it.

We experimented with the spice blend by adding the different spices, first quite cautiously and then rather liberally, and in different combinations. I learned that my 4-year old isn’t too crazy about the smell of cardamom, but loves cinnamon.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie PlayDough | TinkerLab.com

My 2-year old was very happy, however, to shake-shake-shake the pie spices all over her gigantic mound of dough. Can you imagine how yummy our kitchen smelled?

After all this cooking, it was time to bake! At this point, our orange and white/tan doughs marbled into something lovely, and we got busy making small cakes and setting them out to eat on a 3-tier plate server.

But, don’t just take it from me that this play dough is awesome. Kelly from Wonder & Create Art Studio tested the playdough with her kids and says, “To get a fall fever fix in without donning a sweater or firing up the oven, make the @tinkerlab Pumpkin Pie Playdough recipe! It smells, feels and looks divine! Thanks, Rachelle, for this recipe and the wonderful emails you send!”

And then she kindly shared photos from their creative play session. So inspiring! Take a look…

diy pumpkin pie playdough

The cotton ball whipped cream is genius, don’t you think?

diy pumpkin pie playdough

Make mini pumpkins with fork tines and pipe cleaners. Awww.

diy pumpkin pie playdough

More Fall Activities

The Great Big Family Fall List (print this for the fridge!)

More Playdough Recipes

Rainbow Play Dough, Tinkerlab

Cloud Dough, TinkerLab

Gluten-free Cloud Dough, TinkerLab

No-cook Cinnamon Playdough, The Imagination Tree

Glowing Play Dough, TinkerLab

Masa (Corn Flour) Play Dough

Downloadable (Free) Playdough Recipe Book, Nurture Store

Candy Cane Play Dough, Artful Parent

diy pumpkin pie playdough


  1. You are such an inspiration, Rachelle! We’re going to try this tomorrow. The little guy is also a fan of the grinder.
    On another note, I see in a number of your posts that there is a this at the bottom:

    Call for an estimate 724-498-1551

    I wasn’t sure if this was intentional in some way (maybe I’m missing something?), but FYI!


    • Hi KT!
      I just noticed that estimate thing today, too — weird! I recently added a plugin that I just deleted and I’m not seeing it now, so maybe I fixed it. I hope! You’re the best for bringing this to my attention. As for the inspiration bit, shucks! Enjoy your pumpkin playdough.
      xo, Rachelle

  2. This is WONDERFUL! I’ve been thinking about re-introducing playdough to Little A to see if she’s ready and this will be perfect. Thanks so much for the idea.

    • You’re welcome Jess! Play dough never goes out of style. Sometimes they lose interest in it, but my kids are always happy to come back to it after a break. xo

  3. Our old pumpkin play dough recipe always came out too runny so we’re going to give this one a whirl this afternoon – thank you so much for sharing and the recipe card is a huge help too! Love those whole spices. The girls are so excited, they’ve been asking for new “fall” play dough. : )

    • How did it go, MaryLea? Runny play dough is no fun. My 2-year old proudly calls it her pumpkin pie play dough — the smell is awesome!

    • It does make a lot of dough, Anna. Hmmm, maybe I should have been more clear about that? I like having big portions because it gives my two kids the opportunity to explore lots of possibilities. And how could I not mention you in the context of play dough? xo

  4. We just made this – so much fun! I made the huge batch for some to keep at home and some to send to my littlest’s preschool class (I’m their playdough supplier!). I used a jarred pumpkin pie spice from Trader Joe’s and it smells so good! Now that we’re working with the dough, it actually reminds me more of apple pie than pumpkin pie. Good either way!

  5. Is that 2 1/2 cups of salt for the recipe? I just wanted to make sure since it was abbreviated and the other cups aren’t.

    • Hi Michelle,
      Oops! I shouldn’t have done that…will fix it shortly. Yes! It’s cups, and if you go with the standard silo of salt, it’s usually one entire container. Enjoy!

  6. My daughter and I made this a few days ago for us and my preprimary Montessori classroom that I teach. We scented ours with just cinnamon, and used several different food colors. They turned out fantastic! And are such a huge hit with my class as well. Not only was it a great new item to add to my art shelf, it beats store bought playdoh, it is a new sensory item (they loved squishing it), AND they loved smelling it. Who knew homemade playdoh could be such a great multiple lesson. Thanks so much.

    • Hi Heather!
      Thank you for the comment. Homemade play dough is 100 times better than anything store-bought and I’m so happy to hear that it’s now a staple in your classroom.

  7. Thank you so much for this. I added in a few drops of cinnamon spice oil that I use for my polymer clay work and it really kicked the scent up.
    And now, the kids have something super fun and squishy to play with while mommy work with her own stuff, which has already saved a couple projects from pinching little fingers. 😉

  8. Wow this looks like a really fun project! Thank you for sharing 🙂 Our 1st grade kiddos are making a trip to the pumpkin patch this month so this would be a fun activity. Just one question I know the kiddos will ask… is whether the dough is edible? Initially I thought no because of the high content of salt however your last entry indicates that your daughter made small cakes and set them out to eat… so I just wanted to check with you. Thanks a bunch!

    • Hi Irma,
      The dough is not edible, although if accidentally eaten in small quantities it’s quite non-toxic. Sorry if I mislead you — I was being silly about the eating part 🙂

  9. This is by far the best home made play dough recipe I have tried. The first time we made it as demonstrated above (pumpkin pie version) and this morning we made blue and green play dough. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    • Thank you so much for the lovely review, Christina! I’m so happy to hear that this recipe worked out so well for you.

  10. Hello, thank you for a lovely idea beautifully illustrated! Just a note for anyone getting ready to make this–if you don’t use freshly ground spices, have a LOT of pumpkin pie spice on hand. I used almost an entire jar (all I had in the drawer) plus some extra cinnamon and nutmeg and the scent just barely overwhelms the smell of the salt in the dough. I made it to use in my preschool classroom with baking tools to go along with our Thanksgiving unit. I’m sure they will enjoy it. Thanks so much!

  11. Oh, and one more note–I used an entire tube of red and an entire tube of yellow gel food coloring with the whole recipe (didn’t split it to make different colors) and that along with the spices makes it look absolutely IDENTICAL to pumpkin pie filling. FUN!

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