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What is playdough?
Playdough is a modelling material similar to modelling clay in that they’re both soft and are used to create different shapes and forms. However, playdough isn’t made of clay. It’s technically like salt dough – a mixture made with flour, salt, and water.
The origin of playdough
Did you know that playdough was originally a material used to clean wallpaper? Back in the day, when coal was the primary heat source at home, people used a mixture of flour, salt, water, and sodium borate (or borax) to clean up soot from wallpaper and other surfaces that were difficult to wash. The salt dough didn’t become a toy until a family attempting to save a dying factory pivoted and marketed the product to children in 1927.
Since then, playdough has become one of the most popular and recognisable toys on the market.
How to make playdough: 4 easy recipes
Playdough is easy to make at home, and you’ll find tons of tutorials online. A quick search on YouTube will yield dozens of videos for all kinds of playdough and slime. To make things a little easier for you, here, we’ve narrowed down our list to include only the easiest and most practical options.
The following playdough recipes use low-cost ingredients you can find at home. Most of these doughs are made without heat too, so there’s no need to worry about any accidents in the kitchen!
1. All-natural, no-cook playdough
This is a recipe by Emry Trantham of DIY Natural. She notes that this recipe is cheap, customisable, and makes playdough that will last for several months.
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar
- ¼ cup of salt
- ½ cup of warm water
- 5 drops of food colouring
How to make it
- In a bowl, combine salt, flour, and cream of tartar.
- In another bowl, prepare half a cup of warm water. Drop in the food colouring of your choice. The more food colouring you use the darker it’ll be.
- As you stir your mixture in the first bowl, slowly add in the coloured water.
- Now, it’s time to dig in and use your hands. Knead the dough until it’s soft and smooth, and the mix has absorbed all of the flour.
2. Two-ingredient cloud dough recipe
Also called “moon sand”, cloud dough is often given to toddlers as a sensory play experience. This is because cloud dough has a texture that’s distinct from playdough. It’s called moon sand because it feels more like sand than it does play dough, with its coarse, crumbly, and slightly wet feel.
We love Janice Davis’ basic, two-ingredient cloud dough recipe on Learning 4 Kids.
- 4 cups of flour
- ½ cup baby oil
How to make it
- Mix the flour and baby oil in a large bowl.
- Dig in and knead the dough until everything softens.
3. Non-toxic edible marshmallow slime
Slime became a huge deal for little kids these past few years. Marshmallow slime is an edible, non-toxic alternative to the sticky mixture. Here’s an awesome recipe from Little Bins, Little Hands.
TIP: Mums, you gotta supervise this activity, as it requires the use of a microwave!
- 6 jumbo marshmallows
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
How to make it
- Using a microwave-safe container, put together the 6 marshmallows and 1 tablespoon of cooking oil.
- Nuke the ingredients for about 30 seconds, or until the mallows are gooey.
- Add in the cornstarch and wait for the mixture to cool.
- Knead the mixture until you achieve the perfect slimy texture.
4. Silky, non-sticky playdough
This is another two-ingredient playdough recipe (if you don’t count the food colouring). Because it uses hair conditioner, this recipe yields a silkier, smoother type of playdough. Here’s Kate Jones’ recipe from Our Best Bites:
- 2 cups cornstarch
- 1 cup hair conditioner
- Food colouring
How to make it
- Mix the cornstarch and hair conditioner in a large bowl.
- Use your hands to melt the powdery cornstarch into the conditioner.
- Stir in some food colouring using your kids’ favourite colour.
TIP: This type of slime lasts about a day. After a couple of hours, the slime begins to dry up. If you want to preserve the life-span of this slime, try keeping it in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.
Homemade playdough tips and tricks
How to store playdough
Store playdough in a Ziploc bag or airtight container to keep it from drying up. If you want your playdough to last longer, store the containers in the refrigerator!
How to get the perfect texture
A lot of recipes list cream of tartar as one of their key ingredients. Here’s why:
According to Michelle Farris on Parentmap, “The cream of tartar affects the elasticity and texture of the playdough; if you don’t use any, the dough turns out crumbly and dry. Using 2 teaspoons yields very soft dough, and 2 tablespoons makes a firm, springy dough”.
She adds that it is more practical to buy cream of tartar in bulk if you’re going to be making a lot of playdough anyway. You can find big bags of cream of tartar in most baking goods stores. This is better than buying small, expensive jars in the supermarket.
How to keep playdough play fun and exciting
Kids love variety. Change things up by mixing and adding different colours of food colouring to your homemade playdough. You can also add certain ingredients from your pantry to give playdough fun and interesting scents! For example, you can use banana extract to make banana-scented playdough, or fresh lime juice to make citrusy playdough.