Experimenting with Playdough
Playdough - a Versatile Toy!
Play-dough is great for little people and adults can find it a relaxing activity too!
This versatile medium can be colored, scented, molded, textured, marbled, turned into landscapes, covered in glitter, pierced with matchsticks etc.
On this page I've included the experiments we've done with play-dough and lots of other great ideas.
Image Opposite: Colored and scented play-dough. I used a variety of food coloring, herbs and spices to colour and add scent to my play-dough.
How to Make your own Play-dough
Homemade Playdough - Uncoloured
I've included links to lots of play-dough recipes below.
I like to make the cooked version - it's a fairly simple process but will use up a lot of your flour and salt so get some cheap brands. The only really tough part is stirring the mixture in the pan when it starts to come together - you need to use your muscles!
Your play-dough might not look right at first but as soon as you start squishing and rolling it in your hands it will turn smooth - just like bread dough after a good kneading.
Rather Buy it than Make it?
Don't fancy making your own play-dough? Or want a range of fabulous colours? Then this might be the product for you.
Play-Doh are a well known brand and have lots of awesome companion products to enhance your play-dough experience.
This is a set of 36 cans of Play-Doh, each weighing three-ounces.
Adding Scent and Colour
Don't just want Plain Play-dough?
It's really easy to add color to play-dough with food colorings.
You could probably use paints to add color but if your child is very young it's better to stick with something that's not going to do any harm to them if they eat it.
The play-dough on this page is colored quite lightly but you can also make darker and brighter colors, I just prefer my play-dough to look a bit natural.
I used bottles of food coloring but I've heard that the pastes can give much brighter colors.
Adding Scent to Play-dough
You can add scent to play-dough in various ways but the following are probably the safest.
I like to add herbs (both dried and fresh) and spices. You can use food flavorings like peppermint or strawberry. Coco powder is also great but might smell too tempting!
We've recently tried red, yellow, blue and green food coloring, coco powder, cinnamon, dried oregano.
Below is a photo of our "cinnamon swirl" play-dough which smells amazing but is quite strong - all the play-dough in the same tub is starting to smell like cinnamon.
Cinnamon Swirl Playdough
Molding and Pressing
Squish and Shape
A lot of the fun in play-dough comes from squishing it, shaping it and pressing stuff into it.
Below I feature a stamping and molding kit but you can ransack your house for items that would work well for stamping and molding your play-dough.
Make your Own Stamping and Molding Kit
You could have a nature-themed kit with sticks, leaves, rocks, fossils, seeds and nuts.
We like to use Duplo and other toys that we have hanging around the house. Duplo bricks can leave interesting patterns but there's also the other pieces like flowers, windows, the Duplo animals and people.
Any plastic animals or people can be great for squishing into Play-dough. We have a set of stacking cups that have circus animals molded into the top - they work great as stamps.
Cookie cutters are another great idea and can be reused later when your child wants to learn to bake.
Making an Impression
Shape and Mold your Play-dough - Don't want to use household items? Buy a kit.
This fabulous kit comes with a variety of items for stamping and molding your play-dough – five wooden cubes which make great stamps, four tubs of dough (including molding lids – the dough can be pushed into them), three rolling pins for creating patterned dough) and a rolling wheel.
Adding Texture to your Play-dough
Don't Want Just Smooth Play-dough?
You can add texture to your play-dough in a few ways but think about your child's ability - don't use anything they might choke on. A lot of these ideas would be better for older children.
What we've tried:
Sand - we used quite smooth play sand so there wasn't a huge difference compared to the non-textured play-dough.
Cloves - we spent some time poking cloves into a ball of play-dough.
Herbs - Herbs (both fresh and dry) add texture, color and scent.
Ideas we might try in the future:
Adding rice and other grains and pulses to the play-dough and mixing it in well.
Beads - add some bumpy texture and sparkly bits
Twigs, grass, bark etc.
Adding Texture to Play-dough with Cloves
Using Play-dough to Make Play-food
A Play-dough Tea Party
Pretending to have a play-dough tea party might get a bit confusing for your child if they're quite small but once they start to engage in pretend-play it might be something they really enjoy.
The play-dough I made (featured on this page) looks a little bit more like food because of its natural colors and scents, rather than the bright fun colors of the stuff you can buy.
Play-dough can be pretend bread when it's un-colored.
You could get some cupcake cases and make play-dough cupcakes with one color for the cake and a different color for the icing. You could even add "sprinkles".
We had fun making cinnamon swirl "pastries" by rolling up a cinnamon-scented "sausage" of play-dough with some unscented play-dough.
Green beads could be squished into un-colored play-dough to look like mashed potato and peas.
Play-dough could be sliced and prodded with toy forks and knives, placed on plates and put in cups.
I've been looking for a little tea party set to use with our play-dough but I've just found the awesome Play-Doh sets featured below.
Play-dough Eggs, Peas and Cookies
Play Doh Play Food Kits
Whilst I'm very much in the "Do it Yourself" camp when it comes to Play-dough I love these food-based Play-Doh kits.
This cute Play-Doh cookie set comes with 2 cans of Play-Doh and 1 can of Play-Doh Plus which is apparently softer and easier to mold and makes great cookie frosting.
The set also comes with instructions, a plate, 2 cookie molds, a cookie shelf and 2-piece extruder (whatever that is!).
According to one review the playset base includes molds for gingerbread men, butterfly shapes, candy, pretzels, and hearts.
Play-Doh’s Candy Jar comes with 4 cans of Play-Doh and 19 candy accessories including 2 lollipop sticks, a scoop, 8 cutters, 2 dishes, 3 molds, a plastic knife, roller and presser. You can see that there are lots of cute molds on the jar’s lid.
Make Your Own Play-dough Extruder
A Simple Syringe/Extruder for Play-dough
Once I discovered that the Play-Doh "extruders" were syringes for shaping play-dough into long thin shapes I decided to try out a discarded syringe from some medicine.
The Medicine syringe works great, making long thin sausages. Of course it's not as cool as some of the Play-Doh extruders which come out heart shape etc but it does the job for making some fun Play-Doh spaghetti!
My Play-dough Extruder
Making a Play-dough Landscape
Make Tiny Squishy Worlds
Play-dough can be used to make some fantastical landscapes and worlds.
Think about hills and mountains, green grass (use an extruder to make individual blade of grass), rivers, lakes and ponds out of blue play-dough, flowers and people.
Matchsticks can be blades of grass or the trunks of play-dough trees.
Forks can be used to add texture - wild meadow grass blowing in all directions or the flow of a river or bark on a tree trunk.
If you have toy people then you can create them a lovely landscape in which to live.
A Little Play-dough Garden
Using Play-dough to Learn
Making Letters and Numbers
We love playing with any sets of alphabets and numbers so it's fun for us to try and make letters and numbers out of play-dough too.
My child isn't old enough to make his own letters and numbers so I make them and he plays with them.
I like to roll a long thin "snake" and bend it into letters but there are also molds and stamps available that can make suitable letters and numbers too. You could even use alphabet fridge magnets to make suitable impressions of letters.
Letters and Numbers in Play-dough
Play-Doh Numbers and Letters Set
An imaginative way to learn your letters and numbers.
The Play Doh Numbers,Letters' N Fun set comes with 8 cans of Play-Doh, 26 letter molds, 9 number molds and a plastic Play-Doh knife.
The molds are 1.5"x1.5" with 1" letters which are around 1/8" deep. Maybe a little small for younger kids but still fun.