For H’s party favors last weekend, I made homemade playdough to go with a party-themed cookie cutter (teapot) and a kid-sized rolling pin. She’s kind of just starting to pay attention to the real Play Doh, and I thought learning to make it at home would be smart. She’s putting a lot of stuff in her mouth these days, and while the homemade stuff does not taste good (so. much. salt), at least I know exactly what’s in it. You can also kind of control the texture at home!

And I like the idea of birthday party goodie bags that provide something to do instead of candy or a throwaway toy (there are so many more great ideas in fellow GeekMom Kelly’s awesome roundup here).

I looked at a few recipes, including this one from Instructables and this one from Family Education. I thought the key to elastic, long-lasting playdough had something to do with the insane amount of salt that goes into the recipe, but it’s actually all about the cream of tartar and the cooking (the CofT helps with stabilization and heat tolerance). There are other recipes for uncooked dough if the kids are helping, but I loved the cooked dough for goodie bags.

In the end I went with the Colored Playdough recipe from Family Education, mostly because I liked adding the flour to a hot liquid rather than cooking the flour and liquid together (I saw that in a few recipes). I thought it would be more manageable to stir and would come together a little faster. But I did make a few tweaks (one of which was entirely accidental). Since I was making several colors I didn’t add the food coloring in with the hot cooked mixture. I also made a much bigger batch than the recipe called for, so I’m going to put the measurements I actually used here. It made six nice-sized balls of dough.

Homemade Playdough
3 cups water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups salt
3 tablespoons cream of tartar
Food coloring
3 cups flour

Combine water, oil, salt, cream of tartar in a saucepan and heat until warm. Okay, that’s what the recipe says to do, but truth be told I accidentally let this get to a boil. I think that worked in my favor, though, because rather than waiting for this to heat up enough to form a nice, non-sticky dough, I thoroughly cooked mine and just had to wait for it to cool down enough to knead by hand.


Remove from heat, add the flour, and stir.


I dumped my mix out onto my counter to let it cool until I could knead it.

playdough3When I could touch it, it needed into perfect dough, which I portioned out into 6 pieces.

playdough4I made a little well in each piece, added some drops of food coloring, and kneaded it until the color was thoroughly mixed in. This was another advantage of a hotter-than-warm dough; it really helped the color melt in everywhere. Look at that teal!

playdough5And here are all six of my colors kneaded and ready to go.

playdough6If this was for H, I’d just put each in a baggy. But I cut them up into little nuggets and mixed up the colors.