It turns out playdough really is easy to make. People have been saying this to me for years (well, whenever playdough came up in conversation, which is more frequent since becoming a parent, really). But I hadn’t tried to make it until we went to a holiday play session at the Ragged School Museum (fantastic play room for toddlers with lots of activities set up but hardly anyone around when we visited) and a lovely volunteer gave us some perfect playdough to take home with us.
He also gave us his secret recipe, which is that you don’t need a secret recipe, just flour and water and some paint for colour.
- plain or self-raising flour*
- ready mixed coloured paints (whatever “washable” water-based ones you have)
1. Put as much flour in a mixing bowl as you want
2. Squirt in lots of your chosen colour paint and combine it as much as you can with a spoon. I find for a strong coloured dough you need to make this ‘dry’ mix a good strong pastel colour. You can mix with your hands at this stage if you or your toddler wants brightly coloured hands as an added bonus.
3. Gradually add water, mixing with the spoon at first and then starting to knead it together into a dough with your hands. Turn it out onto a floured surface and keep kneading**, adding flour if you think it’s too wet, until you have a soft and pliable dough. I have found that more kneading = better moulding texture. If your toddler is into kneading this could be a fun step to delegate.
Adding stuff to playdough
Here are some fun things we’ve tried:
1. Playdough marbling and colour mixing. Make two or more colours and combine pieces by rolling, twisting, squidging etc. You can probably make all the colours in the rainbow so long as (unlike me) you’re not too sleep deprived when you buy toddler paint to remember that the primary colours are yellow, red and blue. Yes. Not red, green and purple.
2. Sticking things into playdough. We’ve tried coloured feathers, Duplo blocks and autumn leaves. Here is a birdie my boy made.
3. Rolling it out and cutting out shapes. Obvious I know but you don’t need to get anything new for this one if you have some cookie cutters and a rolling pin.
4. Using (blunt) cutlery to cut it up and squash it. Again, obvious, but an exciting novelty if you don’t usually get to use a KNIFE on your dinner.
5. Glitter. You could mix it in at the manufacturing stage but we tried rolling and squishing playdough into glitter on the table. Incidentally, rolling some playdough around is an excellent way to clean glitter off surfaces – seemingly nothing else will pick it up other than human skin. My son permanently has glitter on his scalp or face, often days after a direct encounter (and we do bath him regularly). Here is a Superworm that my son made and transformed into Disco Superworm by rolling him around in glitter.
We use glitter shakers, which we got at WH Smith. Slightly less blizzard conditions than those openable tubes of glitter.
*I’ve tried both because I am mildly obsessed with adapting recipes even when this is frankly silly. Yes, I actually did make a batch of each side by side to test this out. I briefly thought the SR flour dough was more stretchy, but I think that was to do with extra kneading time. Poorly controlled experiment.
**You can knead playdough just like bread dough: stretch, fold, squash, stretch again. Or if you like more drama – I have been trying to show my son that you can do kneading by throwing the dough at the table from a height. This may be unwise.