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How to Make Play Dough

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Did you know that there’s a National Play-Doh Day? It takes place each year on September 16th. I may be a little bit late in getting a play dough post out this year, but better late than never! Let’s explore some ways to have fun with play dough.

I’m a big fan of making my own play dough, since I’m allergic to something in the commercial kind. My daughter’s preschool gave us this recipe to use when it was our turn to make play dough for the class, and I love it. Here’s the recipe straight from their website:

  • Ingredients
    • 2 cups flour
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 cup salt
    • 2 tablespoons oil
    • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • Creative Extras
    • Food coloring (gel works best for bold colors)
    • Glitter
    • Scent (unprepared Kool-Aid packets, flavor extracts, spices, etc).
  • Directions
    • Mix the above ingredients in a large pot and place over medium heat. Stir constantly. Everybody seems to have their own opinion regarding how long to cook the playdough since too little heat results in a “droopy” dough and too much results in stubborn crumbles. A good rule of thumb is to look for the consistency of mashed potatoes (or about the time your arm rebels against stirring). When in doubt, pull it off the heat a little early and have a little extra flour on hand to help firm it up if it seems a bit shapeless. Once off the heat, knead the playdough until cool–a fairly cathartic process–and store in an airtight plastic bag.

Don’t be afraid to mix those creative extras, either! Think: light green play dough with a bit of mint extract, orange play dough with pumpkin pie spices, red play dough with cherry flavor or cinnamon, or brown play dough with cocoa powder.

play dough

So once you’ve got your play dough, what do you do with it? My favorite toys—especially for preschoolers—are simple ones: Rolling pins, cookie cutters, shape stamps, plastic scissors, wooden or plastic pizza cutters, and things to poke the playdough with (like coffee stirrers, straws, or popsicle/craft sticks). I love Melissa and Doug’s play dough sets.

playdoh cutters

Play dough is also fun to use in play kitchens. I’ve seen brown play dough used as a substitute for mud to make indoor mud pies. I love the idea of using uncolored play dough as “sugar cookie” dough that kids can roll out, cut out, and decorate. (You can search for a salt dough recipe if you want your children to make something they can decorate and keep.)

You can even get silicone cupcake holders and let the kids go to town creating bakery treats. Some of my favorite baking toys are the Green Toys Bake by Shape set (a real, food-safe collection!), IKEA’s Duktig toy baking set, and The Little Cook Silicone Bakeware set by Sassafras (another real, food-safe set). And you can always hand over real kitchen bakeware and utensils; play dough—and Play-Doh—will just wash right off with warm soapy water. Have you ever smushed play dough through a simple garlic press? It’s super fun!

burger and malt shop playdoh toy

And, of course, there is an entire world of Play-Doh playsets. They’re fun no matter what kind of play dough you’re using! Some of them are sort of one-dimensional and kind of direct your child’s play; I’m not such a big fan of those.

However sets like the Toolin’ Around Playset and the Big Barrel Playset have lots of possibilities. And I’m a sucker for sets like the Pizza Party set and especially the Barbeque Playset which reminds me of the totally awesome Burger and Malt Shop playset I had growing up. Oh, and since we’re talking about Play-Doh toys from my childhood, everyone needs a Fun Factory set, too. Extruding play dough is one of the most fun things you can do with it!

play dough

One last play dough idea. Did you know that play dough’s not all fun and games? It’s actually educational and helps your child’s development. Playing with the dough can help develop hand strength and fine motor skills. It also helps children work on everything from goal-setting to problem-solving to the use of the scientific method.

You probably don’t think about play dough that way—I know I didn’t—but it’s so awesome to see how kids can learn through play. You can also help them learn a little more explicitly while they play with play dough, though, by using play dough mats. What can kids learn? The alphabet (also check out dough stampers for this and for numbers), counting skills, shapes (this one’s a free printable!), and even Mandarin Chinese.

So, clearly, play dough is great. Have a happy belated National Play-Doh Day—get out there and create something fun with your kids!

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