Kids Crafts: Homemade Play Dough

Summer is great, but entertaining my daughters 24-7 can be hard.  At 11 and 7, they’re more independent than ever, but they still need & welcome suggestions when they’re bored.  That’s why I’m always on the lookout for creative ideas to keep them happy.

I found a great activity book while we were in Vermont called Weekends with the Kids.

With lots of kid-friendly recipes, activities and crafts, lovely full-color photos, even “safety notes” and supply lists, it’s a terrific resource for parents & their children.  We’ve been home less than a week and my older daughter’s already thumbed through it a few times, eager to try this and that.  Yesterday we inaugurated the book with an easy, homemade craft: PLAY-DO!

I’ve made several varieties of homemade play dough over the years, some good, some less so.  This recipe is a cooked version, requiring only 3-5 minutes of actual stove time.  I helped my daughter measure the ingredients and she did the stove top stirring, so YES, it can be made by a child, though adult supervision (at least for the assembly) is recommended.  The resulting dough is soft and pliable, cleans up easily and can be stored for up to 6 weeks in the fridge.  Cream of tartar (found in most kitchens) is the most exotic ingredient, so you likely have everything you’ll need to make this already.


Recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups play dough.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
5-6 drops food coloring, in desired colors

Measure the flour, salt and cream of tartar into a 2-quart saucepan and stir to combine. Add the water and vegetable oil and mix well. Place the saucepan over medium-low heat and stir constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to form a ball, roughly 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Turn the clay out onto a clean surface and let it sit for a few minutes until cool enough to handle. Once cool, knead the clay until smooth. It will initially be a little gloppy, but keep working it and soon it will change from sticky to smooth. Once the dough is smooth, divide into portions and add 5 or 6 drops of desired color to each. Work the dough until the color is uniformly distributed, adding additional drops of color as necessary.

Once the dough is colored and smooth, it’s time to play! It’s fun to shape and mold as is but “tools” make it even better. Some suggestions: assorted silverware, cookie cutters, a rolling pin, etc.  After playtime, place the dough in a zip-top plastic bag, mark the date on the outside using a permanent marker and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.

Any other suggestions?  Feel free to share by commenting below.  HAVE FUN!

0 thoughts on “Kids Crafts: Homemade Play Dough

  1. ‘natch!! and they even sell different sets of food colors in many supermarkets, c – so you won’t even have to mix them yourself. last time we bought ours they had neon, etc. very cool – esp. for your dancing princesses!


    1. Harry, there is nothing wrong with making some for yourself! But I know a couple neighbor children who’d likely love this and if you play with it outside, I’d bet you could come up with some very creative ideas (pressing flowers or leaves into the clay for texture and visual appeal, adding pebbles, etc.) Never say never! 🙂

      1. PS: Tori, I have tried visiting your blog time & time again, and it ALWAYS crashes my browser!!!!!! I’m sorry for my lack of comments, I’ve tried!! REALLY!

  2. Making playdoh was fun, but I would think it’d be hard to get too bored today with all the craft and game ideas out there on the internet. Have you every tried They have projects on just about everything you can imagine there, from candy bars to crafts to nuclear fusion reactors (I’m not kidding!).

    1. Binky, I totally agree, esp. about which (IMHO) has to be one of the coolest sites on the web. The play dough isn’t a new idea, nor is it particularly riveting, but it’s a cheap & easy craft to do anytime with on-hand ingredients. As much as we’d like to do nuclear fusion, I’m thinking it might take more than flour, water and salt. Hahhah

  3. Aww, I grew up making play-dough with my mom and little sister. Although I’m pretty sure we never had the foresight to add color to it. And I say this because I can picture the many dough creations we made and shellacked for my great-aunt, still hanging out on her shadowbox shelves all these years later, still cream-colored.

    1. Hah! not sure how great it’d taste (I’m thinking awful) but I did remind the ladies they *could* eat it if the urge arose.. though they opted for chips and ice cream afterward. 😉

  4. Hahaha… BLAST!
    I was beat to the eat them joke! I must have wasted too much time on lunch… (I should have just gotten my Play Dough to go and this might not have happened)! 🙂

  5. That book can never be more perfect this Summer for my son. After his Summer classes, he gets so bored inside the house. Just like you I have to come up with ideas from paper boat making to drawing to Lego playing. Home made cookie dough making is one cool, fun and edible activity for my son. He loves creating things. Your daughters have one incredible , creative mom. They will have such an amazing memories of their childhood when they grow up. Thank you for sharing. You made me see the other side of the World that I haven’t explored yet. Wishing and your family peace , love and happiness. Have a great Summer!

    1. MMmm.. Homemade COOKIE DOUGH! Now that’s something I’d love eating.

      I think your son will really enjoy making and playing with this (less tasty though fun) dough. Thanks always for your lovely comments, IT. I look forward to reading about your next summer adventure!

  6. If you mix in the food coloring last, as I see you are, you can get a really pretty marbled effect. It’s fun to experiment with the food coloring and when you add it as well as how well you mix it will give all sorts of cool colors and effects.

    1. The marble effect is very cool, Tracie – and it’s even more noticeable w/ darker colors. Next time we’ll have to try mixing the dyes. The girls are very insistent that we keep the colors separate though — they’re bagged individually and everything. I think it stems from past playdough experiences, where eventually everything gets wadded together and indistinguishable.

    1. Hah! Yeah I’ve heard that fancy kind tastes pretty good. Never tried it myself, though when I had the pasta maker, ice cream shoppe and burger makers as a kid, I’ll admit it looked tempting.

      PS: Your ice cream bag comment forced me to do a google search. Can you say YUMMMM???!!!

  7. Homemade play dough was a staple in my home and anything tactile for that matter. Once I made the dough with baby oil instead of cooking oil. It had that baby-ish smell to it when we’d use it. I kept it in an old sherbet container. I miss those days.
    Enjoy your summer with your girls. I’m sure there will be lots of rainy days to put your book to good use. 😉

    1. You are so clever, Tammy!! Baby oil.. MMmmmm. I miss those days – now my daughters just smell like dirt and flowers. haahhah

      This book is great. We have a couple others, but they’re really meant for toddler age children. Now that Maddie’s 11, she’s much more interested in things like sewing, jewelry making, pottery, etc. Too bad we don’t live close to you or she could join you at the studio!

  8. I don’t have kids, but I remember making play-dough in the summer with my parents, and carefully chosing which creations to harden and immortalise in the oven. Thanks for bringing back good memories!

    1. You’re so welcome! It’s wonderful hearing how many others have similar memories. Hopefully my daughters will make homemade play dough with their own kids some day and think back fondly too. 🙂

  9. I remember my wife made some Play-Do for the kids when they were little. After about a week it went really fuzzy & mouldy. It’s all fun & games till the Play-Do goes mouldy

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