Lately, everyone who comes over has been asking about my homemade play-dough. This play-dough is surprisingly moist, creatively colored, and has a nice smell, although I have to admit that it isn’t the classic smell of commercial play-dough.

My self-imposed rule for this blog is to only post recipes that at least one playgroup member has asked for from another playgroup member. This precludes a lot of the things that Sophie and I cook together, because we usually eat up our pancakes or homemade apple-sauce before getting a chance to share them. But folks have been requesting my play-dough recipe, because our playdough lasts long enough to share. So here it is, adapted fromthe King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook, my go-to guide for anything involving flour.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt (a lot, I know. One reason is to discourage kids from eating the playdough. The other reason is that salt is hygroscopic, attracting water, keeping the dough moist)
  • 1 T cream of tartar (optional, but helps preserve the play dough)
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 2 cups boiling water — or cold water if that’s all that’s available
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional, for the nice smell)
  • food coloring — or, if you want a totally chemical-free playdough, use beet, spinach, carrot, or other vegetable juices

Mix everything together except for the food coloring. Knead for 7 minutes or so. Then divide the dough into balls and give each ball the color you want it to have.

There’s my daughter, after mixing in the food coloring. She likes to help count out the cups of flour, tip in the tablespoons of ingredients, and then sniff the various extracts in my cabinet (almond extract, peppermint extract, vanilla extract) because she gets to choose how each batch of playdough will smell. Then we knead & mix in the food coloring, and the whole process is gloriously fun.

The biggest challenge is finding enough containers to keep this in. Our homemade playdough lasts about 3 months, which is longer than the storebought stuff endures in our house.

This homemade kind is not only cheaper, more supple, and chemical-free, it’s also water-soluble, so it cleans up nicely off our various cookie-cutters and playdough-shapers.

UPDATE: Kristen pointed out that the other recipe every parent should have in their repertoire is slime gak. That link will take you to a recipe nicely written up as a science experiment.