Play Dough Recipe - Ideal for Preschoolers

This recipe is cooked in a saucepan, so it's an adult activity. But it lasts longer, is smoother (less grainy) and more pliable than uncooked dough. It's reusable and does not stain hands or clothes. Like the commercial product, PlayDoh�, it will dry out and become flaky. If you were to bake it, it would fall apart - it is definantly not suitable for making ornaments or beads.


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 3 T cream of tartar
  • Food Coloring or scent (see options below)

Note: This recipe may be doubled.


Place all dry ingredients together in a saucepan. If using dry tempra powder or unsweetened Kool-aid mix for color, include them in with the dry ingredients. Gently stir dry ingredients to mix.

In a large measuring cup or small bowl, mix water, oil and liquid food coloring, if using.

Add liquid to dry ingredients in pan, mix briefly, and turn on low heat. If adding scented essences, such as vanilla or peppermint, add them after the mixture begins to thicken, 1 � 2 minutes. Continue mixing over low heat until the dough forms a ball � 3 � 5 minutes total cooking time. Take pan from stove, and let dough cool until it can be handled. Turn it out onto a wax paper covered counter or board, and knead briefly to take out any lumps.

If you waited to add color, or are adding glitter, knead them into the dough at this point. If you divide the recipe you can create smaller amounts of several colors.

Store the play-dough in a plastic bag or other air tight container. It will keep 3 months un-refrigerated and up to 6 months in the refrigerator.

Note: Although all the ingredients are edible, this dough is not food. The salt content is very high, and young children should be strongly discouraged from eating it. Also, keep out of reach of pets: I've read online that dogs that ate the stuff have gotten sick, even died, due to the high salt content of home-made play dough. .


Colored Dough

Here are several ways to add color to your play dough. Most methods create a single batch of dough that is all one color. But if you wait until it's cooked, you can make smaller amounts of several different colors.

Liquid food coloring, found it supermarket baking sections, added to the liquid ingredients before cooking, usually produces a pastel color.


For more vivid colors, use powdered tempera paint, which you can find in art and craft specialty suppliers. Add 1/2 cup dry tempera paint to the flour mixture before adding the wet ingredients.


Add one package of unsweetened Cool-Aid to the dry ingredients and mix gently to distribute before adding the wet ingredients.


You can use liquid food coloring after baking too. Once the dough has been kneaded to the proper consistency, separate dough into as many sections as you will have colors. Flatten each section of dough into a pancake shape, and place several drops of food coloring in the center. Fold dough over the food coloring, and press dough together. Flatten again. Continue to fold and flatten until the food coloring is pretty well distributed, then knead until it is completely distributed. Repeat this process until the desired shade is achieved.


Paste food coloring, sold by sugar-craft or cake decorating specialty suppliers, will produce vivid colors. Use as with the liquid food coloring, but apply using a toothpick. Dip it into the paste, lay it across the dough and then fold dough over. Wipe the color off in the fold of the dough, then fold again and flatten. Continue to "add color, fold and knead" until the dough becomes the color you want.

Scented Dough

Adding 1 pkg. of unsweetened Kool-Aid will give your dough both a pleasing scent and color. See previous section for method.


Flavorings such as 1 tsp. vanilla or a few drops oil of peppermint add a pleasant scent. Stir into mixture after it has begun to thicken, but has not yet finished cooking.

Glitter Dough

You can knead glitter into the cooked play dough for a special effect. I read about a teacher who added clear glitter into white dough to make Snowmen. I'm sure the children were delighted!!

Tips for using Play Dough

You can use Play Dough to hold up diorama figures. Have the children create people and other parts of the scene out of card-stock paper and cut out. Create a small ball of dough, and push the paper edge of the figure half-way down into it. It will stand. Pinch the back of the dough ball, and you've made a grab-spot for little hands to 'make the people move.' Preschool and early primary children love it!

If your hands or surfaces are wet, the play dough will get slimy and make a mess. Avoid mixing play dough and water.

Like the commercial product, this dough gets flaky when it dries. So, if it gets into your carpet or furniture, you can just wait until it dries and vacuum it up. Absolutely resist the urge to wash it out!

All the commercial Play-Doh molding products will work with this dough. Also consider cookie cutters, plastic or butter knives, and "play-kitchen" rolling pins for your preschool play dough activity center.

Disposable or re-usable drop-cloths under a play dough activity center can speed up clean-up dramatically. Especially the disposable one � which can be gathered up and thrown out, bits of dried dough and all. Re-usable drop cloths can be taken outside and shaken into the trash or hosed off into the gutter.

If you make this recipe frequently, you may find that you feel some pain, paying for the cream of tartar. Typically sold in small bottles in the spice section, it can be expensive. A less expensive option is to buy in bulk from a restaurant supplier � check your yellow pages, or ask your favorite restaurant which supplier they use. Or, you could go to the online wholesale food supplier,, and get bulk cream of tartar.

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