Saturday, July 05, 2008

Homemade play dough is worth it

I've made homemade play dough twice, and it is super worth it. If you don't have kids as an excuse, then borrow some. That's what I did when people first started making those big indoor playscapes and I was too old to go in but too young to have kids of my own. But I digress.

I needed to make pink playdough in quantity for my daughter's third birthday, so I dug up this recipe, which I'd stored a couple of years ago. The proportions are simple and it works great. I got the recipe from a page which calls it "Cooked Play Clay II."

Here's my version of it.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
food coloring

Toss the ingredients directly into a saucepan and mix them. Add the food coloring last; you can control the color by adding a drop or two, stirring, and then deciding whether to add more. You can also add more late in the processs, and you can try adding some and not fully mixing it, for a fun effect.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the consistency changes from a batter to a dough. Cool until able to handle and then knead on a floured surface.

That's all there is to it, but the magic is when the consistency change happens: it happens fast. As an adult, I get a bigger kick out of making it than playing with it, because I'd rather use a clay that holds details better when I'm working on sculpting something. But the kids love it, and I don't worry about them using it up...I know I'll make more.

It's odd, in a way, that anyone would make and sell play dough as a commercial product. I mean, people make and sell all kinds of things that we could make for ourselves at home. But play dough is odd because one company has heavily marketed and sold it and I doubt most people ever consider making their own. And it's just not rocket science. It's fast and easy to make, and it's satisfying. Give it a try.

Here's a page that has the cream of tartar recipe and a couple of others.

Here are some other recipes; some of these look interesting, but I haven't tried these.

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