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May 2012

Mary's Modern Homemaking

Have Fun with Play Dough
By Mary Frances

Mary's Modern Homemaking archive


Since I started working in retail I have learned a lot about the products consumers buy. Sometimes foreign manufacturers cut corners and the toys they produce for children to play with are substandard and even dangerous. For example, because it is easier and less expensive to leave the lead in paint, some inexpensive children's toys are contaminated.

So it got me thinking: why would parents put the lives of their children at risk just to save a penny? The only way to really know what goes into some products is to make them yourself. So I found recipes for things like play dough, finger paints, homemade bubbles, and much more, all made with items easily found in your home and for less cost than buying them in the store.

This month I would like to share with you an easy, fun recipe for play dough. What a wonderful way to spend the day with your kids having fun. This recipe is edible, adaptable, and can be made to fit into a gluten-free diet. I use flour from Bob's Red Mill. If you need flour for a gluten-free diet, there are lots to choose from. Be sure to check them out.


The only way to know what is in your child's play dough
is to make it yourself.


Homemade Play Dough

To make the play dough, you will need a saucepan, a sturdy spoon such as stainless steel, disposable gloves, and a very strong arm. Plus:

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
4 cups water
4 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup cream of tartar
Food coloring (optional)

1. Mix all ingredients in a large saucepan. At first it will look like ugly soup. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring, until the dough is completely formed and no longer sticky. This will take between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on the heat. I like low heat to avoid burning it. Mine takes 15 minutes and lots of stirring of very thick dough.


At first the mixture will look like ugly soup.


2. Soon the ingredients will start to stick together, forming a ball. Remove from heat and let cool.


Soon the ingredients will start to stick together.


3. As soon as it is cool enough to touch, divide dough into four or more balls, each of which will be about the size of a grapefruit. I really, really recommend using gloves to mix in the coloring. The first time I made this I used my bare hands, and until the coloring was completely mixed in, it stained them. I went to work for a week or so with the prettiest rainbow-colored hands anyone has ever seen. Not recommended.

4. To avoid color contamination, change gloves after each color. Do not worry about the color coming off when your child plays with the dough; once the color is worked in, the color stays in the dough.


Once the color is worked in, the color stays in the dough.


5. To store, place the dough in an airtight container or plastic baggie, or wrap in plastic wrap. The dough will keep for a long time.

There are so many things to love about this recipe.

  • Imagine spending the day having fun with your kids, cooking up some dough and then rolling it out and cutting it into silly shapes. My set of cookie cutters was $2.99; look for sales after the holidays to see if any discounts are available.
  • You won't have to worry about strange ingredients, so accidental tasting won't be a problem. After all, I still remember when I was young that taste and smells were how I saw the world.
  • Cleanup is a snap. If the dough gets in your carpet, let it dry and gently brush the flakes out, then vacuum; or water and a wet rag will do the trick as well.

Makes a great gift

I love gifts in a jar. For something different, put all the dry ingredients for play dough in a jar and add a recipe card and, for fun, some cookie cutters. Or make up a batch, shape it into balls, and wrap nicely for a wonderful gift.

Helpful hints

  • Since this uses a lot of cream of tartar, it is best bought in bulk. I found mine at a natural foods store, the PCC in Issaquah, Wash.
  • Adding a package of powdered Kool-Aid powdered drink mix to the dough will give it a great scent.
  • Mix colors to get blue-green, purple, orange, etc., and add more colors for playtime fun.


Have fun with your kids, cutting homemade play dough into silly shapes.


Mary Frances lives in Ravensdale, Washington, and loves finding healthy ways to keep her castle clean. She believes that what we clean with can be just as important to our health as what we eat. When she's not cleaning, Mary Frances battles the blackberry vines in her yard. Also enjoy Mary Frances's blog, All American Gal.


Mary's Modern Homemaking copyright 2013.
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