Homemade Play Dough

This play dough recipe has been one of our best craft projects yet.  Dot has been known to play with it for literally HOURS during the day.  The hardest part is convincing her not to mix all of the colors together, but we do what we can, right?  The recipe itself is pretty easy, although I had a bit of a scare, as I figured I didn’t have cream of tartar around the house.  It turns out my husband had purchased some for something he made back at Thanksgiving, so we were able to add it in.  Apparently, it gives the play dough better elasticity.  (By the way, don’t let the number of pictures in this post make you think this is a complicated project.  It was actually really, really easy.  I just took a lot of pictures.)

Homemade Play Dough Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup (warm) water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • food coloring

When the play dough is firm, take it out of the pan and knead it.  It’s probably not too hot, but check it just in case to make sure you or your kids don’t get burned.

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I then cut the dough into six roughly equal pieces, one of each color (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple)

I placed each ball into a plastic bag and then kneaded it to get the color to spread evenly.  To get the colors, try this.

  • Red = 5 drops of red
  • Orange = 3 drops of yellow, two drops of red
  • Yellow = 5 drops of yellow
  • Green = 5 drops of green (or three drops of yellow and two drops of blue)
  • Blue = 5 drops of blue
  • Purple = 3 drops of blue, two drops of red

You can also make your play dough smell good by adding things like peppermint extract, cinnamon, vanilla extract, etc.  I added banana extract to the yellow, but apparently I needed more, as we couldn’t smell it when all was said and done.

Keep your play dough in an airtight container, and it will last quite a while.  We’ve had ours for about two weeks, and it’s still in pretty good condition!

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What I Learned the Hard Way: Mixing the color into the play dough is harder than it looks.  The majority of the time we spent making the dough revolved around mixing in the color.  You can make all of your dough a single color by adding the food coloring to the mixture before you heat it, but I wanted to have lots of colors and think it was worth the extra work.

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About the author

Lorna Doone Brewer is a freelance writer, also known as the Queen Bee. She lives in the beautiful Inland Northwest with three spirited daughters and a wildly outnumbered husband.

View all articles by Lorna Doone Brewer


  1. K Trane

    I, too, used to put kool-aid in as the playdough cooked. My recipe called for the kool-aid that already has sugar it. The results were fantastic. If you truly want to optimize the smells, this is the way to go. Be sure to keep it in the refrigerator between uses, and it easily lasts two weeks.

  2. Bev

    My 2yr old helped his cousins 8 & 10 make this dough. We made it by adding hot water to the mix at a table. That way our work space was contained and safe. We made primary colors and mixed them for secondary tints. Kneading the color in kept all 3 very busy, and just when the kids thought they had reached the pinnacle of fun we added glitter! The dough is splendid after a few days to set up. Great recipe, hours of imaginative play, thank you!

  3. Melanie

    I add glitter and small sequin stars and butterflies (the ones you buy in party shops to scatter on tables as decorations) and the kids love it. I

  4. lornadoone

    @Amy – I love the idea but wonder why exactly you were making play dough in college…

    @gul – I’m so excited that you decided to use the recipe. Did you just heat each color separately?

  5. gul.

    I am writing from Turkey. I did the recipe above yesterday. I made red and yellow. I divided The dough into two equal part and then added the food coloring and heated them in teflon pan. I think this is easier than mixing the colors after heating.
    Now my two little daughters are playing it in the kitchen.

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