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Experimenting with Playdough

Updated on July 15, 2013

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
Homemade Playdough

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?

Play-Doh 36-Can Mega Pack
Play-Doh 36-Can Mega Pack

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

Coloring play-dough
Coloring play-dough

Don't just want Plain Play-dough?

Coloring 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

Cinnamon Swirl Playdough
Cinnamon Swirl Playdough

Molding and Pressing

Molding play-dough
Molding play-dough

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

Homemade Playdough with shell impression
Homemade Playdough with shell impression

Shape and Mold your Play-dough - Don't want to use household items? Buy a kit.

Melissa & Doug Shape, Model, and Mold Clay Activity Set - 4 Tubs of Modeling Dough and Tools
Melissa & Doug Shape, Model, and Mold Clay Activity Set - 4 Tubs of Modeling Dough and Tools

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

Play-dough with cloves
Play-dough with cloves

Using Play-dough to Make Play-food

Play-dough Gingerbread Man
Play-dough Gingerbread Man

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-dough Food
Play-dough Food

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.

Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe Flip 'N Frost Cookies Set
Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe Flip 'N Frost Cookies Set

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 Sweet Shoppe Candy Jar Set
Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe Candy Jar Set

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

Play-dough spaghetti and "Extruder"
Play-dough spaghetti and "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

Play-dough Garden
Play-dough Garden

Using Play-dough to Learn

Play-dough ABC
Play-dough ABC

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-dough Letters
Play-dough Letters

Play-Doh Numbers and Letters Set

Play-Doh Numbers, Letters, N' Fun
Play-Doh Numbers, Letters, N' Fun

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.


Do you like Play-dough? - Share Your Thoughts

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    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 

      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Super ideas.


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