Play dough offers a huge variety of learning experiences. Pinching, rolling, shaping are all excellent pre-reading and writing skills. The opportunities of creativity play dough provides are limitless.
Luckily play dough is easy AND cheap to make. If kept well wrapped between uses, the same batch can be used over and over again.
What’s not to love?
At the end of this post I’ve included a gluten free play dough recipe. But for my Autumn recipes I used the traditional flour and salt recipes, with a secret ingredient: 10-15 drops of glycerin. The glycerin helps keep the dough soft, and helps your hands to not dry out from the salt.
This recipe provides a batch of soft, springy (I can’t think of a better word to describe it) dough. BUT, here’s the thing about any play dough recipe. While I may list 2 cups of boiling water, your dough may be perfect at only 1 and 3/4 cups of water. So add your water slowly and stir in between in order to get you favorite play dough feel.
2 cups white flour (HOWEVER, you could use whole wheat flour, or even give into something exotic like half white flour and half oat flour. The sky is truly the limit here.)
1 cup salt I used sea salt because it gives some visual fun.
2 T oil
2 T cream of tartar
1.5-2 cups of boiling water I used the entire 2 cups for my oatmeal play dough, but less on the other three varieties.
10-15 drops of glycerin I actually used all 15 drops and may even us a few more next time. I LOVE the feel of adding the glycerin.
OPTIONAL: a few drops of essential oil. a T or two of autumn spices
Making the play dough is really easy.
Mix all your dry ingredients. Add your oil. Add the water. Stir. Because you are using boiling water your dough will be hot.
Next I worked in a cup of old fashioned oats and 2 T of cinnamon. You can add more. You can add less. It’s your recipe after all.
Next up was a batch of chocolate play dough. I used the same basic recipe and swapped out the oatmeal and cinnamon for a little over 1/4 of a cup of baking cocoa. You’ll really have to knead this in order to work the cocoa all through the dough. It smells wonderful!
I made one batch using yellow food coloring, lemon grass essential oil, and 2T of ground ginger.
I made the next batch using orange food coloring, grapefruit essential oil and no spices.
Two IMPORTANT TIPS WHEN USING COLOR AND ESSENTIAL OILS IN PLAY DOUGH:
- Add your color to the boiling water and then add the boiling water to the rest of your play dough ingredients.
- Wait until your play dough has cooled down some before you add the essential oils. Heat will burn off those essential oils and you will be left with scentless play dough. It only takes a few drops of essential and they will be very easy to work through your dough.
I wrap each recipe in plastic wrap and then put it into a plastic bag. When I use play dough in a group of kids (like when I worked at the BYU preschool or had my own preschool) I give each child a portion of dough in a baggie with their name on it. That is their dough to use and when they are done it goes back into the bag with their name on it.
Maybe it’s just me but have a zillion kids using the same ball of play dough kinda creeps me out. But that’s just my flavor of weird. Yours may differ.
Parker is a VERY sensory seeking kid. So I spent some time yesterday looking through my cupboards for things I could add to Parker’s play dough. Of course I’ll have to be very careful that nothing winds up in his mouth or down his trach.
It’s also fun to put a small alphabet letter (or other object) into a ball of dough and then have your child dig it out!
Before I forget, here’s the gluten free recipe:
2 Cups Baking Soda (1 box)
1 Cup Cornstarch
1 1/2 Cups Water
Same method as above. You can add color in the form of food coloring, or tempera paint. Work in your essential oils at the very last. If you choose you can add the ingredients to a pot on the stove on medium heat then add the water and color and cook until it forms a ball.
What is your favorite play dough recipe? Favorite add ins? Favorite activities using play dough? I’d love to hear!