Kids' Recipe for Play Dough at Home or Daycare
Busy Hands Need Sensory Play
Little hands are busy hands. Busy hands can be learning hands. So, when parents can have those hands doing creating and discovering in a safe, inexpensive way, everyone wins. In my experience as a mom and a teacher, I have developed a version of the playdough recipe which works the best for me.
Stovetop Cooking is Required
This recipe requires an adult or a very mature older child to make because it does involve heating on the stove. Therefore, before the actual recipe is given, here is a heads-up for that. Also, you will need a large pot or saucepan, some sort of surface that can have a very warm substance on it, and plastic storage bags or storage containers.
Children's Books about Art
- 2 cups of flour
- 3/4 plus 1/8 cup of salt [also known as 7/8 cup in math-savvy homes :) ]
- 2 cups of tap water
- 4 teaspoons of either cream of tartar or more flour
- 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil
- If desired: food coloring. This must be a food product and must not have sugar.
Process before stove:
Take the big pot. Put in the flour, salt, and cream of tartar (or extra flour). Mix with a large spoon. Slowly pour in the water, stirring the entire time. When it is evenly mixed, stir in the vegetable oil. If you want coloring, add just about 3 drops of coloring. You can always add more later as it is cooking. However, the final "cooled" color will be different from what you see in the pot.
Process at the stove:
Place the pot on an adequate-sized burner and turn it to a medium heat setting. Continually stir. The mixture slowly thickens and you should be scraping the sides of the pot to keep it in a lump in the middle. Also, stir throughout so that all parts of the mixture become cooked.
Process after the stove:
When the playdough is thoroughly mixed and no longer "shiny wet," you will need to put it on the surface to cool and to be kneaded. I put a layer of waxed paper - about a 20-inch long piece - on top of a cutting board for this. The dough is still very HOT. Therefore, bring the pot to the prepared surface and quickly turn it upside down, dumping hopefully all of the dough onto the surface. If some remains, scrape it out with the spoon.
Test the dough gently and carefully with a hand to see when you can tolerate touching and folding it. Then knead it for about five minutes (hey, you get to have fun, too!) When it is cool enough for the children, let them have at it! When everyone is done, store in a tightly closed bag or food container. I recommend keeping in a cool place, if possible.
(Also, in the unlikely event that some of this playdough enters a mouth, it is non-toxic - unless a child is allergic to any of the ingredients.)
You may decide to add a half spoon more of oil in future batches. The vegetable oil helps the dough come out of the pot and also slide off skin a little more easily. We don't want to end up with a wallpaper paste sort of mixture which semi-permanently coats the kids. : <>
Also, I have found that some children are sensitive to the salt and complain that it makes them itchy. If you want to reduce the salt, you will need to go carefully and adjust water as well. For the itchy children, thorough hand washing with soap and plenty of water takes the itch away.
Green and Earth-Friendly
Because every ingredient is plant and mineral based, it can go into the compost pile when you are totally done. There is no sugar or animal fat to attract nuisance critters. What a bonus!
Copyright text and first graphic 2008 Maren E. Morgan