Playdough is one of those classic toys that I remember as a kid. When friends of ours gave Isobel a set for her birthday I was taken back to my preschool Sunday school classroom the moment I removed the lid. That salty smell is the same as I remembered it almost thirty years later. I think what makes play dough a thrifty toy, besides the fact that you can make it yourself for pennies, is that you can stretch the possibilities of play with just a little imagination.
For Christmas my über-talented aunt filled Isobel’s stocking with tubs of homemade play dough. The perfect gift! I’ll have to remember that for next year. She loved it and played with it until one day I discovered mold in the tubs. Homemade play dough doesn’t last forever but you can make up batches cheaply and quickly. I babysat all though elementary, middle, and high school, and one of my favorite things to do with my kids was to whip up a batch of play dough and let them go to town.
The recipe is very simple, and although there are doubtless many ways to make homemade play dough (I’ve seen some recipes that involve cooking it), this an easy method I learned back in my professional babysitting days.
- half cup salt
- half cup water
- 1 cup flour
- a few drops of food coloring (optional)
We have a giant oilcloth sheet that I lay down before making this if we’re using the food coloring, but sometimes I just mix it up in the sink. I never added the food coloring when babysitting because I didn’t want to make a potentially staining mess in somebody else’s house. Bear in mind, the play dough in the photos on this post came from the commercial set the Walton’s gave Isobel for Christmas, not the homemade kind, so your finish product won’t look the same. This play dough is edible, but tastes disgusting and eating should be discouraged because its salt content is way too high to be healthy.
1. Mix dry ingredients
2. Add water
3. Add food coloring
4. Mix together and knead into dough
At this age Isobel isn’t interested in making things beyond snakes or balls as much as she is with just squishing it, molding it, and playing with the textures and shapes. The set she received for her birthday included some toys that she quickly became bored with or were too complicated for her to use at this age. This is where I started pulling items from all over the house for her to play with. Cookie cutters and this textured rolling pin were obvious, but less obvious things were the metal mushroom that made a funky-looking imprint, her tiny muffin tray, wherein she likes to made molded “moon cakes”, a dough cutter for easy and safe slicing. I grabbed plates and spoons from her tea set that made flower, heart and butterfly imprints, my flowered bento carrot-cutter, and the melon-baller.
Look around your kitchen and home for things that would provide texture, or a fun safe way to shape or mold the dough. Look for things while thrifting that you might want to add to your play dough tool set, too.
It will look so fun you might want to get in on the action, too.