A creative summer for preschoolers: homemade play doh

creativesummer.jpg This summer, I hope to post one frugal idea a week for preschool summer fun.

And what child doesn’t love Play Doh? Hours of fun, indeed.

It’s already blazes hot where we live, so I’m searching my creative mind for some indoor fun. In the meantime, Play Doh is a favorite standby. My daughter asks for it several times a week.

It’s so much better to make your own than to buy it. It’s cheaper, it doesn’t smell funny, and more than likely, you won’t bring petroleum distillate into your home. In fact, the super-easy recipe I make all the time has just a few ingredients you probably already have.


Photo by Beckett Gladney

Homemade Play Doh

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • a few drops of food coloring

Mix all but the last ingredient in a small saucepan. Cook over a very low heat until it turns into a dough (it’ll take just a few minutes). Knead the dough on a floured surface until cool enough for kids to touch. Separate the dough into as many colors as you want to make. Put just a few drops of coloring in each ball and knead until evenly mixed.

I store the dough in a fridge in an extra jar I have lying around. This way, it usually lasts for months!

To add some texture to the dough, try a few tablespoons of coffee grounds or rolled oats. Some kids love this, some are weirded out.

Hours of rainy day or summer fun, for (nearly) free. It works for me.

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. I didn’t even realize store bought play-doh had harmfull ingredients. Thanks for the heads-up and the recipe!

    Mom,I’m Boreds last blog post..Inexpensive Imagination Boosters

  2. This really is so easy to make. I’ve made it several times for my daughter’s class last year. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

    Jens last blog post..Works For Me Wednesday: Summer Boredom Busters

  3. Well, I don’t think the ingredients are super-duper dangerous, but if I had the choice of letting my daughter play with flour or something weird, I’m going with flour. 🙂

  4. This is a great idea! My SIL won’t let her kids play with play-dough because she doesn’t like the mess… we always had fun with it so I plan on letting my daughter use it when she gets old enough 🙂

    Blesseds last blog post..Sweet Tea

  5. Great recipe. For some reason this is one of those things I’ve always meant to try but haven’t. I’ve also read recipes where you add dry Kool Aid powder to make it smell good-but I’m afraid the kiddos would try to eat it then. . .

    Jenn @ Frugal Upstates last blog post..Frugal Food Series!

    • They will only try eating it once! All ingredients are foods, but it is SO salty that it tastes terrible.
      Happy creating — just monitor what is going on. You DON’T want it on the carpet.

      • We made this in our daycare once in the o-12 month class. The 9 month olds would eat it, cry, and eat it again. And cry some more. We had too take it away. Poor kids!

        • So a nine month old playing with and eating home made play dough. Don’t you think that is a little too young? The idea was for kids… wow a daycare putting those poor babies in danger. I mean come on where is the common sense here, the idea was for “kids”. Have you heard of the word “choke”.

  6. We just made PB playdough – with 1 cup PB, 2 cups dried milk & 3 TBS honey… smells good; tastes good too.

    LobotoMEs last blog post..{ get more done @ 5pm }

  7. @Jenn, LobotoME – I’ve heard of these recipes, but my “concern” is my daughter eating it. She already puts questionable things in her mouth.

  8. Oh the memories!! I used to make the Kool-Aid kind for the girls when they were little. No one every ate it but we sure did have it up by our noses to smell it bunches! I’m not sure who enjoyed it more……me or them? At 50 I still LOVE play doh I wish I could come over and play.

  9. Yeah, I know what you mean! My daughter is 4 so she is better about knowing what she can and can’t eat – You are supposed to be able to eat it we just “sampled” it though (not bad at all) and then made Peanut Butter snowman with raisin features!

    J 🙂

    LobotoMEs last blog post..{ get more done @ 5pm }

  10. Thanks for the recipe!

  11. I have been making homemade ply-doh for my kids for a while and I’m never entirely satisfied with the texture. This recipe is a bit different that what I have been doing and I will definitely give it a try. Now, do you have any tips on how to convince my toddlers that play-doh really and truly is NOT the most delicious snack ever?

    Your series sounds wonderful and I will be checking back all summer long for more ideas. Thanks so much!

  12. @Happy – Maybe put some Tabasco sauce or Worcestershire sauce in the Play Doh? 😉

  13. Wow what a great recipe and even better the idea for posting something for the preschoolers. I am saying thank you from the bottom of my heart for posting for preschoolers. My daughter’s in that age group.

    zobarss last blog post..My recipe is on a food blog I am so excited.

  14. We love Homemade Play Dough. It’s super fun to make and lasts forever if kept in the fridge. And one little recipe makes tons.

    Make and Takess last blog post..Hatching Butterflies

  15. As a preschool director, we use this recipe all of the time. Sometimes we add a scent to make smelly playdough (we use kool aid, or other flavoring without sugar–when we had beach day in February, we put in a tiny bit of coconut and it smelled like pina coladas!).

  16. Erica Douglas says:

    If you use a package of off-brand Kool-Aid instead of the food coloring, the play dough will smell fabulous and you can still create a variety of colors using the different flavors. Just make sure your kids know that it smells good but doesn’t taste good.

  17. why cream of tartar? I dont know what it does…

  18. I’m a second grade teacher and this is the best playdough recipe. I love to use the Kool-aid because it will color it and make it smell good. They usually won’t eat it because of so much salt. This is a great recipe!!! Need to make some for my class soon.

    Ginny´s last blog post…What a CRAZY DAY AT SCHOOL!!!

  19. No, no ,no ………….. not tobasco! Little ones are always putting their hands on their faces, close to eyes and mouths.

  20. Marlena says:

    Even easier, 2 cups of flour, 3/4 cup water, 1/2 cup of salt, mix together add add food color, easier and cleaner if you add the food coloring while mix,, rather then after, hands are stained for days.

  21. This recipe is WAY too runny, like pancake batter. It must be 1.5 cups flour not just 1/2 cup?

  22. In fact i tried a different receipy just “flower & water” it was not bad.
    i started to play with my daughter but the weird thing that happend that i suddenly found her throwing it in the basket coz it fell on the floor 🙁
    I need your help to find something caught her interest, anything but TV

  23. My son is at the early stages of toddlerhood (18 months), so we won’t be doing this yet, but it is a good idea for later

  24. Also is the cream of tartar necessary because I don’t have that in my house, kids do bored I might let him do this today even though it’ll get a little eaten and in my carpet

    • Cream of tarter is to help the playdoh keep, if you are only playing with it for a couple days you don’t need it.

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