How to Make Homemade Playdough
“The best homemade playdough that makes small batches! Soft and squishy and perfect for pretend snacks and cookie cutters!”
Visual learner? Watch me make this homemade playdough recipe from start to finish!
*NOTE* There is a fun contest for parents and kids in this video. Lots of Amazon Gift Cards to Give Away!
My mother was a preschool teacher, and she was “that teacher.” You know the one. That fun, silly teacher who went the extra mile to make sure that the kids were totally immersed in a lesson. On Farm Day, she would decorate her entire classroom with handmade life-size farm animals, huge silos, hay bails, and even dressed up as a farmer. Parents came with cameras in hand for any holiday because they knew Miss Sylvia’s classroom was gonna be the talk of the school.
Having a creative teacher, mama meant that my siblings and I reaped all the benefits. Crafting and DIY projects were the things our childhood was made of. Homemade bubbles, DIY sidewalk chalk, make-it-yourself glob, and from-scratch playdough were all common-place.
Now that I’m a homeschooling mama, I feel like I’ve made every single playdough recipe on the internet.
Homeschooling and playdough go hand in hand, and I’ve been making it for the past 10 years! It’s always been a part of my homeschool lessons, and today I’m going to share with you our favorite homemade playdough recipe.
For the most part, homemade playdough recipes contain the same essential ingredients: flour, salt, cream of tartar, oil, water, and food coloring. It’s the different measurements that can create different textures. We like this one!
What makes this homemade playdough so special?
- It makes small batches. This is helpful for so many reasons. It doesn’t use up all my flour for one, everybody gets to create their own batch(es), so I don’t have to hear “No fair Isaac stirred it 4 1/2 times and I only stirred it 4 times!”. You really can make lots of different colors quickly with such small batches, and it will even fit into store-bought playdough containers if you want to store them in there!
- No stove top required. Hallelujah! All you need is super hot water. I love using my little electric tea kettle for this. It heats water in 1 minute. You can also use the microwave or a coffeemaker. Or the stove top.
- It uses simple ingredients. Flour, cream of tartar, salt, water, oil, and food coloring, and that’s it! You can find cream of tartar in the spice aisle in your grocers.
- The texture is perfect. This is one of the things I really like about this recipe. The feel is soft and squishy, yet not too soft. It’s firm enough to hold and manipulate shapes made with cookie cutters and perfect for making play-food for playing restaurant, building playdough snowmen, or creating colorful slither-i-o snakes.
How do you make homemade playdough?
It’s easy to learn how to make homemade playdough. For this quick, kid-friend version, in a nonstick bowl, first whisk together the flour, salt, and cream of tartar. Next, add in the oil, hot water, and food coloring. Using a rubber spatula, stir it all together until a dough forms. Once the dough is cool enough to touch, begin to knead and squish the dough until all the flour is incorporated. Allow the dough to cool completely before using. That’s it!
How do you make playdough without cooking?
I use to cook my playdough on the stove all the time in the beginning. I’d whisk together all the dry ingredients in a pot and then add in my water, oil, and food coloring. I’d stir quickly on medium heat until a ball begins to form and then let it cool off on wax paper. Then I’d wash out the pot and repeat with the next color. Yep, that’s what I did. I then said, “Baby ain’t nobody got time for this!” after my boys wanted to make playdough every freaking day! That’s when we went to this no-cook recipe. They can whip this up on their own and make as many colors as their heart desires without needing me there. It even works with really hot water (which is what my 6-year old uses).
How long will homemade playdough last?
You know..I’m really not sure! Does anybody actually know? I would think a pretty long time as long as it’s kept sealed up. The pink playdough hardly ever gets used around here, and I’ve had it for over 3 months, so I know it will at least last that long. My boys are notorious for leaving playdough out and mixing the colors, so we usually make several batches throughout the year for whatever color we need. It’s quick and cheap, so I don’t mind too much. Besides, there is just something fun about playing with fresh playdough!
Homemade Playdough Ingredients:
Flour- This is the central part of the playdough. Just like with regular dough.
Water- This moistens the flour so that it will turn into dough.
Salt- This acts as a preservative. Nobody wants moldy playdough, and little hands are very germy. (always have your kids wash their hand before and after playing with playdough)
Cream of tartar– gives the dough it’s body and texture. A little makes the dough soft and stretchy, add a bit more, and the Makes the dough soft and stretchy as opposed to soft and crumbly.
Vegetable oil- Keep the dough moisturized, so it doesn’t dry out as quickly. (homemade playdough will dry out much fast the store-bought playdough.)
Can I make playdough without cream of tartar?
Ok, see, I’m supposed to tell you yes because technically you can. It’s just dough after all. But the cream of tartar gives it the perfect playdough texture. It’s the bee’s knees for making silly snakes that won’t shrink after rolling out, and cookie-cutter cutouts that stay soft yet firm enough to pick up and play pretend with them. So umm…yes you can technically make playdough without cream of tartar but don’t. Your kids will thank you.
Does homemade playdough need to be refrigerated?
Nope, just store it in an airtight container. I store each color in a sandwich bag and then put the sandwich bags inside of a sealed food container. This keeps everything nice and soft.
Homemade Playdough Making Tips
1. Blend the salt. This is optional, but we have “Play dough-Making Salt” at my house. I take a big box of Dollar Tree course salt and throw it into the Blendtec and blend to a fine powder. It dissolves so fast. Regular fine table salt will work too, but I really like the blended salt. Personal preference.
2. Use a plastic or melamine bowl to mix the play dough so that it doesn’t stick to the bowl. In the video, I used a glass bowl so you guys could see everything, but we usually use a melamine mixing bowl. If you use one too, you will be in playdough-making heaven! The dough pretty much self-cleans the bowl as it forms, making it ready for the next color. We can really crank out a lot of colors this way.
Make scented playdough! I love adding in a teaspoon of cinnamon and nutmeg to make scented playdough. It smells so divine and creates a natural brown color. You can also buy soap scents that smell amazing! We love making the fruit-scented playdough.
Make Therapy Playdough! I’m kinda obsessed with essential oils. Add a few drops of kid-friendly essential oils to give your playdough a little aromatherapy. Lavender infused playdough is a great wind-down activity before bed, and Sweet Orange oil-infused playdough smells fantastic. I love using playdough to gently discuss sensitive, hard-to talk about topics like death or current world event with my kids like this coronavirus. It somehow makes the talk less awkward when we’re both just creating and talking. They jump in and out of the conversation at their own pace. It’s a great therapy tool
How Do You Use Playdough in the classroom?
Besides merely playing with playdough and letting your imagination run wild, there are so many ways to use playdough for learning. Kids LOVE playdough. Just bring out a bin of colorful play dough and watch them perk up! I use this to my advantage.
Throw the tests away and add playdough!! I don’t give formal tests in my homeschool, other than the state-required end of grade testing. Instead, I use games to quiz my boys. Everybody tries thier best when there is a game or points involved! I know that if I turn something into a game, my boys won’t just guess. They will REALLY try to figure it out.
We do a lot of “Smash It” Tests using our smash mats. Kids like to smash things. It’s fun! I’ll quiz them with lots of questions using balls of playdough. If they get it wrong, I’ll make a little self-note to go back and review a particular area. For every right answer, they get a point. If they get a certain amount of points, they win a prize. The prize is usually something small like an extra 20 minutes of Roblox playing time, a skip-a worksheet pass, or a go at the classroom claw-machine. Needless to say, they work extra carefully on their tests.
Who doesn’t like opening a gift? Instead of giving my boys a worksheet, I’ll place the questions inside of a ball of playdough, and they get to choose 10 to complete. Usually, I’ll hide a “Silly Willy” card in the mix. If they pick it, they will have to do something silly like run around the house two times with pantyhose on their head or complete a minute-to-win-it game.
I especially like using playdough for learning mats. It’s great for teaching letter and number formation, fractions, measurements, graphing, you name it! Looking for free leaning mats and other cool things to do with playdough? I love Malia’s site over at Playdough to Plato!
If you’re new to homeschooling, it’s so easy to get caught up and spend a lot of money on homeschool manipulatives. Please don’t overwhelm yourself like that. I mean sure those little teddy bears, see-through counters, snap cubes are all great, but you can just use play dough! Playdough is great for bringing word problems to life. Even making playdough is a lesson in measurements, fractions, chemical reactions, color mixing, cooking, temperature, states of matter, etc.
Shop The Playdough Items I use in my Amazon Shop!
My playdough is sticky? No worries, just add a bit more flour a tiny bit at a time. Too much flour will give you soft, yet crumbly playdough, boooo. Sometimes just leaving the playdough uncovered for a few minutes will do the trick and dry up that extra water that’s making it sticky.
My playdough feels like its drying out a bit? Add a few drops of oil to re-moisturize the playdough. I usually have to do this after a week of play, but often, my boys have mixed up all the colors by then and dropped it on the floor a million times and we are ready to make a fresh batch.
Help! My playdough has mold. First, before and after playing with any playdough wash your hands. The salt in the playdough does an excellent job of acting as a preservative. Still, sometimes things like food particles and dirt from dirty hands can get trapped in the dough, or moisture can somehow get in the container and create mold. If you see mold on your playdough, throw it out, even if it’s just a tiny section. It’s so easy and quick to make fresh playdough, so I wouldn’t even try to salvage it. I’ve only had a couple batches go moldy on me when I tried to decrease the salt.
My hands feel dry after playing with homemade playdough. That is one of the main complaints, usually from adults than kids. I don’t think kids even notice it. It’s from the high salt. The high salt keeps the mold away but it can also be drying on the hands. Wash your hands before and afterwards playing and apply lotion if needed. If this is really bothersome to you then you may have to use the stovetop method. The cooking helps dissolve the salt more. If you want to try this method just add double the amount of water and cook it until a dough forms. Place the dough on wax paper and allow to cool.
That’s it!! I’ll be quiet, now! Can you tell I love this kinda stuff lol I could go on and on about homeschooling so please don’t ask me any questions about it if you don’t want to hear an earful! It’s one of my passions.
Ok go make lots of playdough and memories!
Get the Recipe: The BEST Homemade Playdough- No-Cook, Small Batch!
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup fine table salt, (I like to blend it to a powder first. See note)
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- Food coloring, (I use about 15-20 drops for bold colors and half for pastels)
- In a plastic bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and cream of tartar.
- Make a well in the center of the bowl and add vegetable oil, boiling water and food coloring.
- Using a rubber spatula, stir until a dough forms, add a little bit more flour if needed. (It's ok to add in more food coloring at this point if needed just be sure to really work it into the dough)
- When the dough is cool enough to touch, use your hands to further incorporate the flour and knead until all flour in incorporated and dough is soft and uniform in color.( wear latex gloves if desired)
- Let playdough cool completely before playing with it.
- When you are ready to play with the playdough, wash your hands and have fun!
- Store the playdough in a sandwich bag and place the sandwich bags in an air-tight food storage container. Store room temperature, no need to refridgerate.
Free Play Dough Activities:
Note: The below links contain play dough mats, play dough recipes, play dough games and crafts. Most (if not all) are FREE but some require email signup. Pinterest has a TON of cool ideas for using playdough.