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Homemade Playdough for Kids

Updated on July 8, 2014
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Keeping kids entertained during a vacation can be a challenge. Whether you're cruising through the Bahamas, exploring Roman ruins or relaxing on Belizean beaches, vacations are a cycle of hurry-up and wait. Hurry-up to get to excursions and appointments. Wait for the next big event.

Hurrying is easy. Most parents have mastered the art of hustling small children into clothes and out the door regardless of whether they're sleepy and cranky or over-excited and bouncing off the walls.

Waiting is the hard part. During downtime, boredom sets in. It's easy to plop kids in front of a TV or a computer screen, and much harder to develop activities that make the best of the foreign environment.

Making play-dough is one of the best activities for entertaining small children during downtime at your home away from home. Best of all, you need not worry about how to keep your PlayDough or store it. Refrigerate it in a sealed plastic bag, store it in an airtight container or bake it up and feed it to the local birds. It's so easy, you can always make a fresh batch.

Homemade Playdough

Playdough is entertaining for kids of all ages. It's one of those things that's great when purchased from a store and even better when made from scratch. Kids can spend hours (yes hours!) kneading, shaping, cutting, throwing and (hopefully not) eating the stuff.

Best of all, making Playdough gives you an opportunity to introduce your kids to the local environment in ways they understand. Take a trip to the local grocery store. Peruse local ingredients. Talk to shopkeepers. Read labels. Check prices. Touch, taste, smell. And in the end, spend quality time as a family making memories you'll cherish forever.

Step #1 - Planning

Planning is key.

Before you leave for your vacation, identify the key local ingredients of your Playdough mixture. Baking soda and flour are pantry staples pretty much everywhere, but the most common oils vary by region.

A little Internet research will help you identify the key oils for your vacation project. You're looking for oils that are semi-solid at room temperature. Depending on your vacation location, this may be coconut oil, palm oil or something else.

Vegetable oil, olive oil or other liquids work well in a pinch, but semi-solid oils give the Playdough a really great texture. Using a semi-solid oil also ensures the Playdough doubles as a super-tasty lunch. Roll it thin and throw it in a pan for tortillas, or heat balls in the microwave for a great quick-bread.

A little Internet research will also help you identify the proper proportions for your Playdough recipe. Homemade Playdough is the same recipe as Homemade Tortillas. There are lots of great recipes on Hubpages and other recipe sites. Find one that suits your diet and lifestyle and print a copy so you'll have it on hand for your vacation adventure.

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Basic Playdough Ingredients

  • Flour
  • Water
  • Oil
  • Salt and/or Baking Soda

Step #2 - Shopping

Shopping in a foreign country is a great experience.

A visit to a local grocery store is a great way to introduce kids to foreign foods and cultural traditions. A question like, "Why don't they have milk?" can lead to lessons on local agriculture and industry. Browsing produce can spark interest in trying new fruits and vegetables. Even the soda and juice aisles provide opportunities for parents to educate their children on local ways of life.

Although visiting the grocery store can be extremely rewarding from an educational perspective, it can be overwhelming if you're browsing aimlessly. When you have a definite purpose and a grocery list of Playdough ingredients in hand, aimlessness becomes adventure!

Great ways to make the most of your shopping event:

  1. Ask the shopkeeper for his/her best tortilla recipe. Write it down and use it for your Playdough.
  2. Buy coloring agents for your PlayDough. Kool-aid and food coloring make great additions to your mix. Since they're food-safe, you can still eat the PlayDough that hasn't been played with too much.
  3. Stock up on toppings to make a local version of quesadillas or tortilla pizzas. Everyone loves to tout their country's traditional foods. Sneak a couple types of local cheese, and while the kids are distracted, make quesadillas that help acclimate them to local flavors.

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Step #3 - Preparation

Back at your home away from home, mix the ingredients together according to your recipe. In most cases, you'll stir the dry ingredients together, knead in the shortening, pour in the water and knead to form a soft dough. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes and the Playdough is ready to go.

When you're finished playing, store the Playdough in a plastic bag to keep it fresh. If you use a semi-solid oil, the Playdough won't dry out, and you can shape, mold and play with it for days. When it gets manky or dirty, toss it and make a new batch.


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Step #4 - Lunch!

Now that the kids are shaping, molding and playing with their Playdough, put them to work making play into lunch.

The Playdough recipe is just a tortilla recipe. Grab balls of clean dough. Mush them flat with the ball of your hand, or a rolling pin if one's available. Toss them in a hot pan to cook them through, or cook them in a microwave if you have one in your hotel room.

The result is a quick and easy bread you can use for wraps, pizzas, or any number of other foods.

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