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Play Dough and How to Make It

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Play dough is a soft, squidgy material that can keep children occupied for considerable lengths of time. Although it is available in a rainbow of colours, it inevitably ends up as a grey crumbly mess, or alternatively, a smudge on the carpet. Play dough is available to buy under several brand names including Play-Doh. Making your own, however, is much cheaper, and leaves you with extra money to spend on some of those fantastic sculpting devices. Non-toxic1, brightly coloured and easily sculpted, play dough makes an ideal tool for creative play. Rubbing it into other people's hair is not recommended, however much fun it may be, as it tends to result in your getting into a lot of trouble.

One of the nicest things about play dough is that it is also very quick and easy to cook...

The Ingredients

  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • Food colouring


  • Mix together the dry ingredients
  • Add the water
  • Mix until smooth
  • Add the food colouring, followed by the oil
  • Cook on a medium heat, stirring constantly, until the dough leaves the side of the pan in a ball
  • Allow to cool before use

The process can be repeated several times, changing the food colouring, to make lots of play dough in a variety of colours. In this circumstance, using half quantities should be sufficient, as the above recipe makes about twice the amount of dough that comes in the average sized tub.


Play dough can be messy stuff, so it is advisable to use it on a wipe-clean mat. If the dough accidentally gets trodden into the carpet, don't worry, as home-made play dough can be quite easy to clean up. Warm soapy water should be sufficient to restore carpets to their original colour.

Life Expectancy

Like shop-bought play dough, this version will dry out if left exposed to the air for too long. To keep it in good condition for longer, put it in a sealed plastic bag, or container, and store it in the fridge when not in use. If the play dough gets past its best, then simply make up some more as this is much easier than trying to revive it.

Further Uses

As well as simply kneading into different shapes, a bit of further creativity can provide for more prolonged enjoyment. Here are a few suggestions...

  • Use simple tools such as cookie cutters and blunt knives to create more interesting shapes.

  • Sculpt the play dough, into blocks for example, and then allow to dry, thus creating a different toy. You could try baking the blocks in the oven at 180° to make sure the play dough is hard. You can then paint and varnish the blocks.

  • Use as a mould for other craft activities, for example candle making.

  • There are several board games that involve the use of play dough, for example 'Grape Escape' or 'Cranium'.

1Although non-toxic, home-made play dough does, however, have a high salt content, so it is inadvisable to let children eat it.

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