Homemade Play Dough (great for unwinding after school)

We’ve just finished the first two weeks of school and it isn’t just the kids who are tired, even I feel tired! Trading in carefree, unstructured summer days for the routine of school has been a bit of an adjustment.  I quickly realised we needed to take it slow and find a simple way to unwind after school. The answer was to make and play. And then an idea came to me — tactile play with homemade play dough. A way to knead, squeeze, twist, and squish the dough between your fingers is so relaxing and fun, and something that didn’t need a deadline, wouldn’t be competitive, and didn’t require working with school materials.

Homemade play dough — free from nasty chemicals — is like a colourful, happy, doughy ball of therapy.  I am not a fan of store-bought play doughs that often have strong odours. Also, purchased ones contain ingredients I am unsure of… so if my eighteen-month-old decides to take a bite, it is a bit scary! Plus making play dough is so very easy, it can be done by all ages, and the process of making it is definitely part of the fun!

There are tonnes of different kinds of play dough recipes (here’s another recipe from the archives!), but this is a classic, and it is fool-proof. You only need 6 ingredients and a few minutes to make it. My kids honestly have played with it for hours each day for five days straight! Then they woke up Saturday morning and asked to make some more play dough. Be warned…. it is addictive 🙂


Classic Play Dough

-2 cups of Flour
-2 cups of very Warm Water
-4 teaspoons of Cream of Tartar
-2 teaspoons of Olive Oil
-1/2 a cup of Salt
-Food Colouring

Mix all of the ingredients (except the food colouring) in a pot. Then warm it on the stove over medium heat.
Stir until smooth. (It will still be gooey). If needed, knead the dough and add a little more flour until the consistency is that of play playdough. (I didn’t need to do this step, but it depends on how long you ‘cook’ it). Separate the dough into even balls and carefully add the colouring into ‘wells’ in the centre of the dough. This can temporarily stain (see my hands!) I used about 20 drops of colour to achieve the bright coloured dough. We only used 4 colour dyes, then mixed the dough to make other colours. It is fun to mix your own colours, which the kids helped with too! Once cooled, store in an airtight container — it lasts for months for us in a glass container with a lid.

It is amazing to see how play dough sparks imaginations. Beatrice loves sculpting the dough into whales using our favourite Schleich animals as models for artistic accuracy. Whereas Joseph loves cutting stars out of the dough, (with cookie cutters) and using the end of the rolling pin to make holes in mounds of dough. Banging, bashing, and squeezing, all are great for developmental skills as well. Maybe even throwing. : )

And after numerous hours lost in play dough fun, I remembered we had a rainbow themed birthday party to go to …. so we made a homemade rainbow play dough kit as a gift! We packaged it in a repurposed box with a cute little label we painted… and voila! We had a new present idea for future birthday parties. Aren’t homemade gifts the best?

But I would love to hear what ideas you have to help your children unwind and relax after school. What snacks, games, and fun routines do you have? Please share.

Lara xx


Comments (3)

October 6, 2017

What a gorgeous gift. You are such a good mum. X

November 7, 2018

Looks great fun! May I ask which food colours you used?
We unwind normally after nursery with a pile of books and tea on the sofa. But this looks so relaxing that we might have to try that out straight away tomorrow. Thanks for the inspiration x

March 14, 2020

We make quite a bit of playdoh but it’s difficult to get vivid colours. What food colouring do you use?

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