Homemade Play Dough

In the very, very early 80’s, one of the highlights of my year was our Church’s annual Fun Fair. Among the most common prizes was a selection of margarine tubs filled with homemade play dough. Having at least one tub of each available color was a sign of one’s prowess at choosing floating ducks and throwing bean bags into buckets. These tubs were powerful status symbols among the kindergarten set.

Now that my preschooler is obsessed with playdough, I wanted an alternative that allowed us to have large quantities of neat colors without all of the throwaway containers once the dough got hardened or full of dirt. So, I pulled out the Church cookbook from 1979 and checked out the recipes.

This was a very easy recipe that looks, feels, and smells just like the real deal. My little one loved making it with me, and we have enjoyed playing with it for the past 5 days with no complaints.


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 Tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon oil (I used canola)
  • Food coloring – mix it in until desired color is achieved.


  1. Combine ingredients in pan and stir over medium heat. Stir until a ball forms. You’ll know when it’s ready.
  2. Turn out onto floured surface and knead for a few minutes.
  3. Store in an airtight container.

Like I said, this works just like the brand name product. I have noticed that it does not dry out as quickly, and that when it does, only the very outside layer gets crusty – it can be peeled away so that the inner layers can be reused.

One thing to note is that this is NOT necessarily a cheaper alternative. Most stores sell Cream of Tartar in pretty tiny containers, and they are pricey. One batch of this dough takes almost the entire container. You may want to cut the recipe in half – that makes about what you’d find in a standard container of Play Doh.


2 thoughts on “Homemade Play Dough

  1. Pingback: Nifty Gifties |

  2. Pingback: Nifty Gifties: A Retrospective | The Reluctant Hippie

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