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From Play-Doh to Play-Dough: Make Your Own

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Every child loves Play-Dough, and more adults should give it a second squeeze, as the soft, pliable dough works well as a stress reliever and as therapy for overworked hands. Inexpensive and non-toxic, this imagination-promoting toy can inspire whole new worlds of dough and keep children entertained for hours. 

The commercial brand of modeling compound known as “Play-Doh” and sold in stores around the world was first manufactured as wallpaper cleaner. Once kids got a hold of the moldable dough however, it became fodder for arts and crafts projects and by the 1950s was marketed directly to elementary schools. Today, Play-Doh is one of the most popular toys in the world - what child hasn’t squeezed out an army of snakes from a Fun Factory or created a beautiful cake made of bright blue dough? Just the smell of the dough can bring back fond childhood memories; in fact, they even make a Play-Doh perfume for those who want to be reminded of happy hours spent kneading, squishing, building and creating as a child.

What is Play-Dough? Essentially, it is made of wheat flour, salt, water, lubricant and a starch-based binder. However, branded Play-Doh also adds a retrogradation inhibitor, surfactant, hardener, preservatives, fragrance, color, a petroleum additive and borax. Most of these ingredients are present only to extend the Play-Doh’s shelf life.

You can make your own Play-Dough for a fraction of the cost and without any of the preservatives or additives like fragrance and color. Be sure to use organic ingredients whenever possible, and use wax paper to protect your counters and tables from the salty dough. In just a few short minutes you can whip up a batch of Play-Dough that will delight your kids for hours – and may even inspire you to mold something as well!

Homemade Play-Dough


1 cup wheat flour

1 cup water

1 cup salt

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

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From the Organic Authority Files

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Natural food coloring (if desired) such as Nature’s Flavors or India Tree.


Mix together the dry ingredients in a medium-size stew pot.

Add the vegetable oil and water and turn the heat on low.

Stir, stir, stir until the mass is well mixed, cooking for about 5 minutes on low heat. Add food coloring at this point if you so desire.

Once dough forms, dump onto a sheet of wax paper.

Let the dough cool until it can be handled, kneading now and then as it does. Now you are ready to play! Be sure to put down a sheet of wax paper in the dough zone on which to play and save your table.

Store Play-Dough in airtight container. Because there are no preservatives in this recipe, it will not last forever. When the dough starts getting hard, you can form it into shapes (Christmas tree ornaments, hand-print plaques, tiny animals), let it dry and then paint the hardened dough for a keepsake item.

image: technotheory

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