Wichita on the Cheap

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Make Your Own: Play Dough on the Cheap

This is the BEST homemade play dough recipe I have ever used. I saw a coupon (long gone now) for Play-Doh and it reminded me to share it with you. This is just like the real thing — or as close as you can get — and it’s really simple to make.

I don’t remember where I found this recipe. It was on a printed handout I had (which is how we used to share good recipes before the Internet), and I’m sincerely grateful to the person who developed it. It’s the best recipe for play dough that I’ve found – it even smells like the store-bought kind – and the kids love it! They seriously will play for hours. They also like being involved in choosing the colors or color-combinations for the dough. 

This is a cook-type dough, so an adult needs to do that part. It comes together really quickly and is not intimidating after you make it the first time. You’ll see what I mean when you make it; there’s a point where the dough is just suddenly done and you have to act quickly. But it’s still super easy, I promise.

ingredients to make homemade play dough
Home made play dough ingredients are really simple: water, flour, salt, cream of tartar, oil, and food coloring.

At the bottom of this post I’ve also included a no-cook play dough if you really don’t want to use the stove. It’s fine, it’s just not as similar to the brand-name stuff.

My favorite play dough recipe:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 Tablespoon of oil
  • 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
  • a few drops of food coloring (optional)
  • a few drops of extract for fragrance (optional)

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until thickened. Remove from heat, allow to cool. Store in airtight container. (You can use old yogurt cups with lids to separate batches, or a plastic sour cream container for the whole batch.)

Optional: We have also made the playdough without food coloring so that we could divide the larger batch into different colors. Add drops of food coloring into smaller lumps of cooled play dough and knead thoroughly. It gets messy though! You won’t want to do this over carpet. I personally prefer putting it in ahead of time, but part of the fun of making your own play dough is experimenting with different things. It’s so cheap, you can afford to!

Older kids can help with the stirring, but the dough is really hot when it comes off the stove and kids (and parents) are always eager to grab some and start playing with it. Avoid ouchies by making sure they know not to touch it until it has cooled.

No-cook playdough recipe:

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup salt
1 1/2 cup flour
food coloring (optional)
vanilla extract (optional)

Combine the ingredients and knead the dough until it comes together. Add more flour if you need to.

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