Play dough is something every child loves to play with and something every adult remembers. This simple doughy stuff can be transformed into an infinite number of shapes and forms – the only thing your child has to add is his or her imagination.

Working with play dough allows your child to express and develop their creativity from an early age. It requires neither special tools nor the mastery of difficult techniques. Just give your child a lump and they’re away, entering worlds of dinosaurs, spaceships, pirates, fairies, racing cars…

But times are tough and buying the commercially made product might be more than the weekly budget can stand. Fortunately, help is at hand – you can make play dough at home for a fraction of the cost.

What You’ll Need

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of water
  • Food colouring
  • A saucepan
  • A wooden spoon

The Play Dough Method

  • Place the water, oil and food colouring in the saucepan.
  • Slowly mix in the flour and salt.
  • Place the saucepan over a medium heat and stir constantly.

As the ingredients heat they will form a dough that looks like very stiff mashed potatoes. Once this dough begins to pull away from the sides of the saucepan remove it from the heat and allow it to cool.

When the dough is properly cool, knead it thoroughly until it achieves a smooth texture.

If the dough still feels sticky after you’ve done this, it means you haven’t cooked it long enough. You can return it to the heat to dry it out a little more and then knead again.

Multiple Colours

If you want to make several colours of play dough, but don’t want to go through the cooking process over and over again, you can make the play dough as above but omit the food colouring.

Then, separate your play dough into several batches. Form each batch into a rough ball and make a depression in its centre. Add a teaspoon of liquid food colouring to each depression and knead until the colouring is evenly mixed through the dough.

If the colour is not strong enough, simply add a little more and knead through again.

Play Dough Storage

Your homemade play dough, though it will provide hours and hours of fun, does have a finite lifespan. Eventually it will dry out to a point where it is no longer fun to play with. When this happens you’ll have to throw it away and make some more.

You can, however, prolong the life of your play dough dramatically by storing it when not in use in a zip-loc bag in the fridge.

Safety First

The ingredients in this play dough recipe are non-toxic and produce a dough that is safe for children to play with. Eating raw dough, though, may make a young child sick and it is the responsibility of carers to supervise young children during play dough playtime.

Care should also be taken to ensure that children do not play with play dough that has gone mouldy.

Playtime Ingenuity

A few cheap ingredients and a little time spent in the kitchen is all it takes to save yourself money on this timeless favourite. But there may be more to it than dollars. In these days of economic decline, teaching children that creativity does not depend on an expensive computer gaming system may be just as valuable to them in later life as the thrill of creativity they experience when they apply their imagination to that colourful lump of play dough.

See what’s possible with play dough in this video.

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