Homemade, No-Cook Play Dough!

Homemade play doughYou’re stuck at home, oh no! Try making some homemade play dough to pass the time. This is an excellent STEAM activity to do with children, as it involves measuring, mixing ingredients, possible experimenting, and creating with your finished product. I love this recipe because the ingredients are fairly simple, and it does not involve cooking the play dough on the stove top; when we’ve done this at the library, Natalie and I used a microwave to heat the water, there’s no need to get it to a rolling boil! When you look at the ingredient list, you might ask, “Caitlyn, do I really need to include cream of tartar?” Natalie and I tested omitting it, and we found that initially the play dough seemed fine without the cream of tartar, but it within a couple days it liquified while the play dough made with cream of tartar kept the expected consistency. So if you have to make your play dough right now and don’t have cream of tartar, go ahead, just know it won’t last for days and days of play. Some options for mixing it up:

  • Add essential oils or spices, like cinnamon, to make your play dough scented
  • Experiment with different amounts of coloring (red food dye in smaller amounts makes pink dough), or mix primary colors
  • Color your play dough with natural dyes. Simmer blueberries in water, and then strain out the berries to make pink dye; simmering shredded red cabbage provides purple. Brew coffee or tea to make brown play dough, or add cocoa powder. Use turmeric to make yellow dough or matcha green tea powder to make green.

Recipe (will make one large ball of play dough):

1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup salt (traditional fine table salt)
1 Tbsp cream of tartar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup of boiling water + another 1/4 cup to add in as needed while mixing
food coloring – optional

1. Add all the dry ingredients together and stir (flour, salt and cream of tartar)

2. If you are going to add color to the play dough, add the food coloring to the cup of heated water – first – as this will make for evenly spread color (instead of kneading it in later.)

3. Add the first 1/2 cup of water to the dry ingredients along with the oil and give it a stir with a spatula or spoon.

4. While mixing, add the remaining 1/4 cup boiling water, as needed, a little at a time until you get the desired consistency.

5. Knead your dough like bread once it is cool enough to touch. If you accidentally add too much water, add some additional flour as you are kneading.