Introduction: How to Make Playdough (Play-doh)

Picture of How to Make Playdough (Play-doh)

Playdough (aka Play-doh) is easy to make at home, and fun for kids of all ages.  Here's how to make your own non-toxic toy with custom colors and fragrances.

This is the classic method that involves a bit of cooking on the stovetop - I prefer it because cooked playdough has a better texture than uncooked varieties.  If you want the kids to be able to do it all themselves, try this uncooked playdough recipe.

Warning:  Keep away from dogs and other pets.  Playdough smells like people food but contains lots of salt, and a hungry dog can eat enough to cause a dangerous salt imbalance.


Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients

Playdough is a classic childhood toy everyone can have fun with, and it's so easy to make at home you'll never buy that stinky store variety again.

Basic ingredient ratios:
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity)

food coloring (liquid, powder, or unsweetened Kool-Aid or similar drink mix)
scented oils

Step 2: Mix and Heat

Picture of Mix and Heat

Mix all of the ingredients together, and stir over low heat. The dough will begin to thicken until it resembles mashed potatoes.

When the dough pulls away from the sides and clumps in the center, as shown below, remove the pan from heat and allow the dough to cool enough to handle.

IMPORTANT NOTE: if your playdough is still sticky, you simply need to cook it longer!
Keep stirring and cooking until the dough is dry and feels like playdough.
I've gotten many comments asking about sticky dough, so please just keep cooking a bit longer and it will work!

Step 3: Knead & Color

Picture of Knead & Color

Turn the dough out onto a clean counter or silicone mat, and knead vigorously until it becomes silky-smooth. Divide the dough into balls for coloring.

Make a divot in the center of the ball, and drop some food coloring1 in. Fold the dough over, working the food color through the body of the playdough, trying to keep the raw dye away from your hands and the counter. You could use gloves, a big ziplock bag, or plastic wrap at this stage to keep your hands clean- only the concentrated dye will color your skin, so as soon as it's worked in bare hands are fine.

Work the dye through, adding more as necessary to achieve your chosen color.

1 If you use Kool-Aid or similar unsweetened drink mix for color, test on a small ball first- it won't go as far as the "real" food coloring.

Step 4: Play and Store

Picture of Play and Store

Play with your playdough- I really don't need to help you there. It's entirely edible, if a bit salty, so it's kid-safe.

When you're done, store your playdough in an air-tight container.
- If it begins to dry out, you can knead a bit of water in again to soften the dough back to useability. Once it's dried past a certain point, however, you'll just have to start over; thankfully it's not terribly difficult.
- If it gets soggy, you can re-heat it to drive off the extra water the dough absorbed overnight.  This is usually the result of high humidity, but is fixable!

You can also bake it in the oven to make hard dough figures and ornaments, then paint or otherwise decorate the surface.  One of the comments below even suggests using baked play-dough as a salt lick for your pet rabbit!  (thanks, redcore4!)

Comments

Txhoney521 (author)2017-11-17

Made with my grand daughter. When done we put in ziplock and a month later she brought it back to my house to play with it. Lasts long time. Fun to make

JoW31 (author)2016-06-13

Is it alright to using baking powder if cream of tartar is not available?

ambport made it! (author)JoW312017-10-29

i used cream of tartar

Bruhitz04 (author)JoW312017-06-08

Yes

TheRealAnubis made it! (author)JoW312017-01-03

We used Baking Powder and it worked fine - you just have to use a bit more.

KoBob made it! (author)2017-08-29

My daughter just started to play with play dough and after a few weeks of excessive use with the store bought brand they dried out.I was interested in making my own and followed the instructions to the letter. I just finished making a batch of play dough and added some food coloring, my daughter can't keep her hands off them. I was able to sneak a picture with a few of the colored play dough.

ambport made it! (author)KoBob2017-10-29

her is a picture what i made

FinweMartinez (author)2017-07-05

Made some, but it got soggy overnight. Is ok to reheat in microwave? Do i need to add something else when reheating?

ambport (author)FinweMartinez2017-10-29

no

KoBob (author)FinweMartinez2017-08-29

Hello FinweMartinez,

I'm not sure how you batch would get soggy overnight, sounds like interesting story. As for your microwave question I have not tried, but I lets consider the normal instructions to warm the dough at low temperatures. When finished, the dough is still "dough" and pliable. When you cook food from a microwave it usually it comes out fast and hot. If you set the time to thirty seconds the dough batch the water evaporates and "cooks". Your microwave may have a defrost feature and it may be possible to warm the dough, like I said earlier I have not tried. If you are going to microwave the dough batch let us know how it turns out. What would be the worst that can happen, throw away a bad batch. I'm sure other people would be interested in your results.

Best regards,

KoBob

jedi-ja made it! (author)2017-10-02

Hello. Does anyone know the food coloring ratio for a strong purple? My purple did not turn out.

ambport (author)jedi-ja2017-10-29

2 drops of blue

and

2 drops of red

gabrielledearman (author)jedi-ja2017-10-07

The regular red and blue colors in typical food coloring sets unfortunately will not create the purple color you are wanting. You'll need to buy a ready mixed purple, or you can also use liquid watercolor, or kool aid mix.

jedi-ja (author)gabrielledearman2017-10-07

Ah! Thank you!

ambport made it! (author)2017-10-29

thank you for that i have a picture

Dewny (author)2017-07-04

A salt dose ranging from 0.75 grams to 3 grams per kilogram of body weight can kill someone. The one cup of salt in this recipe equates to 240 grams. Therefore consumption this batch has the ability to kill between 80 and 320 lbs of body weight.

A 26 lbs child eating 1/3 of a batch will die if not receiving emergency medical treatment.

I don't think many kids would enjoy eating this but to say it's "entirely edible... kid-safe" is flippantly irresponsible.

Please note, I do not have a problem with this Instructable. I think it's a great idea, recipe and craft. My only objection is to the insinuation that it is "entirely eatable". If a kid eats a small amount there should be no problems. But in every kindergarten class seems to have that one kid that will eat the entire jar of paste or the whole box of crayons. If that kid eats this stuff, the kid will be in serious need of emergency treatment.

gabrielledearman (author)Dewny2017-10-07

I think the author made that statement to say that the recipe is non-toxic, so if curious little ones take a bite, it won't be toxic... but, wasn't said to encourage eating.

Dewny (author)gabrielledearman2017-10-07

Everything is "non-toxic" if one is exposed to a small enough amount. Considering the age of the children uneducated parents may allow to play with this stuff, Google salt toxicity and do the math. One bite of this stuff may be all that's needed to put a small kid in the hospital or worse.

coburgcraftstuffc (author)2017-07-07

I have been making play dough for over 25 years - very similar recipe, but the Australian version has 4 tbspn cream of tartar, the recipe is on the container! I always add the food dye to the water, that way you can see what the colour will be like ( eg when mixing primary colours to make purple/ orange/green etc). The recipe can be halved for a smaller batch, and when making it with young kids, no need to cook on the stove, just mix in boiling water to dry ingredients, the result is the same. I would make a full batch for my kids when they were young, but divide it into 3- 2 in zip lock bags to put into the frezer (or give to friends), one to store in the fridge & play with. That way if the first lot dried out or got dropped on the floor too often, I could bin it & have a fresh lot once it thawed out overnight. If kept in an airtight comtainer in the fridge it pretty much lasts forever ( and can quickly be warmed up with a 10 second zap in the microwave), if not kept in the fridge the oil will eventually go off & the playdough won't smell so good. And don't use olive oil, it doesn't work & stays sticky even with a ton of extra flour! ( I made this mistake only once!!!)

Mrs Martin421 (author)2017-07-06

I made this. I followed the directions as written, it was not complicated at all and it came out perfect! My kids are loving it. I used Vanilla extract and it smells like cupcakes. Thank you for sharing.

KellyB141 (author)2016-06-01

Very excited about this. My daughter chose dumbo as her theme for her baby shower. We had lots of fun making it and I'm pretty proud of the results. You be the judge.

dwooten1 (author)KellyB1412017-07-04

Awesome!

Baberall111 (author)KellyB1412017-04-22

Amazing how did you do that

clutzy (author)KellyB1412017-04-21

Hi. Great work of art. How thick is your piece and how long did it take to harden? I just tried a piece that was about 2/8" thick. The top harden, but underneath it was soggy. I experimented with uncolored playdoh and it yellowed a bit. Did you have any color issues?

Thanks for any information that you can provide.

pmk222 (author)2017-07-04

I've seem some comments/suggestions about using baking soda instead of cream of tartar, but everyone says to "use a bit more". What is the suggested amount of baking soda instead of cream of tartar?

UNICORNSAREBAE (author)2016-11-06

Do you have to use that many/much ingredients? I mean, why would you waste 2 cups of flour, and warm water. Not only that but 1 cup of salt, that's a bit much. Also, is there any replacements for the cream of tartar? I don't have any, and I love to make some blue play dough.

Dear, this is not waste - to have a blob you can use there has to be some substance. The flour holds some moisture and 'glues' the salt together. The warm water speeds the cooking time which sets the flour to adhere and stretch. The cream of tartar acts as a preservative and stabilizes the flour. You can use baking soda instead, but add a bit more.

petecoo1978 (author)2017-07-04

Brings back memories, i'm 38 now and my mum used to make this when i was a kid :-)

oceanicsparklegamer (author)2017-03-22

I did everything right and all I have is water type thing

Add more flour

JenniferA182 (author)2017-03-30

pls advise what brand glow in the dark paint would be good for toddlers. thanks

MujdaHudja13 made it! (author)2017-03-13

I made it! It feels like the real thing!

RustyJ1 made it! (author)2016-07-31

I just made some but instead of cooking ut low heat i took the water and salt and heated it till it was almost boiling and add the rest of the ingredients and mixed and it was done in maybe 2 mins.

CharmaineS10 (author)RustyJ12017-03-05

Did you make this then without cooking on the stove? In trying to make play dough without a stove, just a hot water kettle.

Shiningstar123 made it! (author)2016-12-19

I had to add more than I expected but it's still super soft. Heads up:Don't add to much flour or else it will get too dry been there done that. Had fun making this.??

lvitto (author)2016-12-10

I made this homemade playdoh recipe ang my kids loves its consistency. Very elastic and easy to mold. They even tell me it's better than the original Play-doh. See Images of my homemade playdoh here:

http://www.mamamelyn.com/2016/12/Save-Money-With-Homemade-Play-Doh.html

SaraC102 (author)2016-09-01

Does this "go bad" after awhile? Any idea how long?

SusanJ83 (author)SaraC1022016-12-07

The cream of tartar also helps preserve the playdough. I've used the same batch in my classroom for several months. Just pop it in the refrigerator.

T0BY (author)2016-12-06

Thanks for that, very helpful.

DaniS43 (author)2016-09-12

You know you can't make playdough with equal parts water and flour? That's playgoop. Mind the typo.

40ozFatality (author)DaniS432016-09-29

You know this is a cooked dough recipe... it is always equal parts flour to water.

1 Part Flour
1 Part Water
1/2 Part Salt
1 tb oil per cup of water/flour
1 tsp cream of tarter per cup of flour/water

Flour contains starch, and when you cook the starch with water it thickens. Mind the comments.

CynthiaJ17 (author)2016-08-11

This recipe is great. But if I want to make ornaments, what temperature do I bake at and for how long?

Thanks!

BriaC2 (author)2016-08-04

I made this with my kids. It was great! Good recipe!

wasis1947 (author)2016-08-04

Although the addition of cream of tartar was a little helpful ; I used Arrowroot. The sticky feeling was immediately solved. I wonder what effect it will cause ?

dhed317 made it! (author)2016-07-23

I made it. Stirring playdoh is no joke. :-)

rainingfiction (author)2016-07-07

Nicely done.

TristaZ1 (author)2016-05-19

My 11 year old Grandson made this tonight for a school project! It turned out perfectly! Scented with essential oil too!!! Awesome!

austinwebdesign (author)2016-04-27

This is great. My daugter will love to be able to make her own colors

LeighC17 (author)2016-04-27

Not sure what's going on with the people who say it doesn't work. If you read above the ingredients, you do have to cook it. I've found it best to add the water, salt and food colouring first. Heat and stir while the salt dissolves, then add the flour, oil and cream of tartar and continue to stir. If its still gooey, add more flour. The only times this hasn't worked for me is if I forget an ingredient or add too much of one thing. I think it's better to use 2 tbsp of cream of tartar. This is a pretty basic recipe and is the same as most you will find on the internet.

SarahB238 made it! (author)2016-04-27

Just made this for my Toddler classroom, and I have to say, the recipe was easy! I made two different batches (one with fruit punch drink mix, and the other with purple food coloring) and they both turned out beautifully. I like the suggestion of cooking them at about 4 on the stove for ten minutes, that was the perfect amount of time to keep it smooth but not to goopy. I love this super simple recipe, and will be using it again when I can get some more food coloring!

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