Best Play Doh Recipe: Learn the Easiest Way to Make Playdough for Kids
One of the greatest benefits of playdough for kids is that just by squishing it and moving it around, children are working to strengthen fine motor muscles. “Fine motor control is the coordination of muscles, bones, and nerves to produce small, exact movements” (Medline Plus). These are the muscles kids will use as they develop skills like holding and writing with a pencil, using zippers or buttons, and many other key day-to-day tasks.
It’s easy to DIY play dough at home using ingredients found in your pantry or that can be easily picked up on your next trip to the grocery store. Below you’ll find the easiest way to make soft, pliable, homemade play doh. My 4- and 6-year-olds love helping me whip up this play doh recipe and cooking it together is almost as fun as getting to play with it afterwards!
Play Doh Recipe
- 1 cup Flour
- 1/2 cup Salt
- 2 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
- 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
- 1 cup Water
- Combine 1 cup flour, ½ cup salt and 2 tsp cream of tartar in a saucepan.
- Separately, mix 1 T vegetable oil and 1 cup water.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat and slowly stir in the wet ingredients.
- Stir constantly until a ball forms, about 3-4 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let cool on a piece of parchment paper.
- Knead until smooth
- Keep in a sealed container or plastic bag; it can be kept for months!
Now that I’ve shared the basic play doh recipe, it can be customized in so many ways! Simple add-ins that can elevate homemade play doh to the next level include food coloring, scents, and glitter or beads. Here are some of my favorite themed combinations and activities:
Pumpkin Pie Play Doh Recipe
Every fall I make this pumpkin pie play doh recipe- and yes, it smells just as good as the real thing! While mixing your dry ingredients, add in 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice and ½ tsp cinnamon. Mix a few drops of orange food coloring into the wet ingredients. Set up pretend play with mini pie pans, kitchen utensils, and cotton balls as “whipped cream” topping.
Sugar Cookie Play Doh Recipe
This recipe is our favorite around the holidays! Fold vanilla essential oil into the play doh after it has cooled. Set up play with cookie cutters, a roller, bead “sprinkles”, felt frosting cut-outs.
Natural Floral Play Doh Recipe
This floral DIY play dough is just so sweet and pretty! Once the play doh is cool, you can mix in petals from your favorite garden flowers (or grocery store bouquet!). You can tear them up, cut them, or let them dry first and then crumble them in. I like to also add a floral scent to this recipe like rose water or lavender oil.
Rainbow Scented Play Doh Recipe
One of my favorite ways to add beautifully vibrant colors and scents to homemade playdough is by using kool-aid powder packets (make sure you get the little rectangular packages, not the container with sugar added). We like to get one to match each color of the rainbow: cherry, orange, lemonade, lemon lime, blue raspberry, and grape. Mix one packet into the dry ingredients.
Even More DIY Play Dough Activities for Kids
Homemade playdough provides a fun, hands-on, sensory friendly option for learning. It easily scales as your child grows; from early literacy skills to spelling and math, there is probably an educational activity you can try! Little ones can roll out playdough “snakes” and copy shapes and letters from visual aids like flash cards. Cutting those same playdough snakes is a great introduction to using scissors! Older kids can roll small balls of dough to be used as hands-on math manipulatives. Spelling words can be practiced using wooden letter stamps (or pieces of an alphabet puzzle!)
My kids absolutely LOVE role playing with their play dough. Their favorite is pretend cooking and baking which is so easy to set up by borrowing some pots and pans from their play kitchen! Every year around their birthdays, I use our sugar cookie playdough recipe to create a birthday set-up. I include kitchen utensils, cupcake tin, cupcake liners, and candles for celebratory pretend play!
Another thoughtfully intentional activity is talking about emotions by creating playdough faces. On a piece of paper, draw a head with no facial features. Talk to your child about different emotions and have your child fill in the facial features using their playdough to represent that feeling. For older children, you can discuss different situations (real or fictional) and have them create an appropriate facial expression to add to the blank face by using playdough. This activity is a gateway to meaningful conversations and is an exercise for putting words to feelings that your child may be experiencing!
Open-ended playdough activity kits provide creative freedom for kids with only a little adult guidance: kids revel in not having a “right” way to do something and it really lets their imagination pour into their play. I provide my kids with a tray of options to add to their playdough and offer a theme or topic, but ultimately what they create or how they play is totally up to them! For example, we have created monsters with a tray of googly eyes, pipe cleaners, pom poms and toothpicks. Some other examples of creative activity kits we have made with playdough for kids include: making bugs, decorating christmas trees, planting a flower garden, and creating a dinosaur habitat.
I hope you’re inspired by these DIY playdough recipes and activities to provide enriching and creative play at home! Have fun and be sure to check out more ideas for DIY and crafts with your littles on The Find!