Our best play dough recipe plus 7 fun things to make

Give this quick and easy play dough recipe a go to keep the kids entertained – plus loads more ideas to inspire the kids with things to make.

There’s something weirdly therapeutic about kneeding this squashy substance into shapes that makes it irresistible to join the little ones and release your inner creativity.

In fact, play dough has more-or-less become the resident therapist in the toy kingdom, since playing with this de-stressing dough has proven so relaxing for both kids and grown ups alike.

Never before have we heard such a guilt-free excuse to skip yoga and play with the kids instead.

So don the apron and cook up a treat for all the family with this quick and easy play dough recipe. Don’t be afraid to get creative with the colouring; you could even make a couple of different coloured batches for optimum playtime productivity!

We recommend using a gel food colouring, since it gives you a richer colour than ordinary food colourings. When you’re done, just pop it into a sealable bag or airtight container and play.

Basic Play Dough Recipe

You will need

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of water
  • Food colouring
  • Large saucepan
  • Spoon

How to make

Step one
Add the flour, salt, cream oftartar and vegetable oil to the saucepan.

Step two
Add some food colouring to a cup of water, then pour into the saucepan.

Step three
Stir over a medium heat, until the mixture becomes a sticky, combined dough. Allow it to cool.

Step four
Remove the dough from the saucepan and knead into a smooth ball of play dough.

Now that you’ve made, rolled, squished or cut it, you may be wondering what else there is do with your play dough.

Fear not, we’re bringing the excitement back to dough! These fun activities and recipe tweaks should keep your little ones occupied.

1. Make play dough wands

Credit: Suzie Attaway

Every fairy princess needs a wand and what better to make it from than play dough? That way you can reshape it and remake it any way you like, to go with every outfit, of course.

You will need

  • Play dough
  • Pink glitter
  • Rolling pin
  • Star biscuit
  • cutter
  • Striped paper straws
  • Sequins
  • gem stones

How to make

Step one
Make some pink play dough following the basic play dough recipe. Add some pink glitter, and knead the dough well to make sure it’s evenly covered and beautifully sparkly.

Step two
Roll out the play dough with a rolling pin to about ½ cm thick. Cut out 2 star shapes with the biscuit cutter. You could cut these shapes with a butter knife if you don’t have a cutter.

Step three
Lastly take a striped (or any other kind!) straw and lay between the 2 play dough stars, then gently press and mould together until they stick. Decorate with sequins or gem stones. All that’s left to do now is to make your wish.

2. Turn play dough into a galaxy!

Credit: Suzie Attaway

Little explorers will love this simple way to learn about the stars. Great if your kids have friends round, to keep them out of trouble for a little while.

You will need

  • Black, red, blue, orange, yellow, turquoise, green and brown play dough
  • Silver, purple and blue glitter
  • A3 black card
  • White chalk
  • Silver stars

How to make

Step one
Make some play dough following the basic play dough recipe. Add colourings of your choice.

Step two
Then add some silver, purple and blue glitter to the black play dough and knead well to evenly distribute the colouring and glitter.

Step three
Next mould the play dough into different planets, e.g blue and green for earth, yellow for the sun, red for mars, and so on. This is a great opportunity to talk a little bit about space and all the different planets. Kids are usually fascinated by all the differences between them and will be keen to learn.

Step four
Take an A3 sheet of black card and draw rings with white chalk to create a solar system play mat. Decorate with silver stars. And you’re done!

3. Transform toys with play dough

Credit: Suzie Attaway

We love giving old toys a new lease of life and play dough is a simple solution to making pre-loved play things appealing again. Your little one will love seeing how wacky an outfit they can give that old Lego man.

You will need

  • Red, blue and turquoise play dough
  • Plastic figures
  • Paper clips, metal nuts, straws, spaghetti, small shells and gem stones to decorate

How to make

Step one
Make up some balls of red, blue and turquoise play dough following the basic play dough recipe.

Step two
For the mermaids, simply mould some turquoise play dough around the doll’s bodies, and decorate with small shells and gem stones.

Step three
For the robots, mould small balls of red and blue play dough into heads, bodies, hands and feet, and connect together with straws or spaghetti. Then decorate with metal nuts and paperclips.

4. Squash it into some stress balls (which you can use later!)

Credit: Suzie Attaway

Sometimes there’s a need for a de-stressing moment when crafting with kids, because they sure are good at getting that glitter everywhere.

You will need

  • Natural play dough
  • Bright balloons
  • Colourful wine
  • Black marker pen

How to make

Step one
Make a batch of natural play dough following the basic play dough recipe without adding any food colouring.

Step two
Roll the play dough into thin sausage shapes.

Step three
Take a balloon and pop some play dough inside.

Step four
Continue filling the balloon, then tie a knot at the neck. Cut a length of twine and tie onto the balloon to look like it’s string, waving in the wind.

Step five
Draw a funny face on the balloon with a black marker pen. Why not have a competition to see who can come up with the silliest face?

Step six
Now all that’s left to do is to de-stress… You might have to wrestle them off the kids first though. In fact, we wouldn’t tell if you skipped the ‘making with kids’ part and just had a go at these yourself. They’re oddly therapeutic!

5. Use play dough to teach fine motor skills

Credit: Suzie Attaway

Somehow our kids’ crafting never seems to look like those ones you see on Pinterest. There’s definitely a lot more mess involved. We’ve found the best way to combat the strain of this is to sneakily have them make you a stress ball during one of their creative sessions.

You will need

  • Dry pasta tubes
  • Zip seal freezer bags
  • White vinegar
  • Food colouring
  • Glitter
  • Cooling rack
  • Coloured play dough
  • Pipe cleaners

How to make

Step one
Place a handful of dry pasta tubes in a bag. Pour a little white vinegar into the bag, then add some drops of food colouring. Add some glitter if desired, then seal the bag and shake to coat every tube. Leave for an hour, then shake again, then leave for another hour. Remove the pasta and allow to dry on a cooling rack.

Step two
Make some different coloured play dough following the basic play dough recipe. Mould into balls.

Step three
Thread some dyed pasta onto a pipe cleaner, then press each end into a ball of play dough to create a rainbow.

6. Make a wild jungle for toy animals to roam in

Credit: Suzie Attaway

Play dough makes a great mat for all kind of scenarios. This jungle one is perfect for toy animals but you could make one that features street and gardens to use toy cars on – their imagination is the limit.

You will need

  • Green play dough
  • Tenderstem brocolli
  • Leaves
  • Small stones
  • Plastic animals

How to make

Step one
Make a batch of green play dough following the basic play dough recipe and using lots of green gel food colouring. Make sure to give it a good knead so the colour is nice and evenly distributed. Although, for a textured finish you can make the colouring less uniform, giving a more marbled look.

Step two
Help your child create a jungle scene using tenderstem broccoli for trees, leaves and stones. Then let their toy animals roam freely on their new found plains…

7. Give tutti fruitti play dough a go

Credit: Suzie Attaway

Kids love this colourful play dough and the addition of fruity smells makes it even more fun. It’s also a great way to talk about shape, smells and textures with little ones, to refine their motor skills from a young age.

You will need

  • Orange, green, red and pink play dough
  • Fruit essence
  • Leaves and twigs

How to make

Step one
Make up batches of orange, light green, pink and red play dough following the basic play dough recipe and then adding a few drops of colouring to each.

Step two
Add a couple of drops of orange essence to the orange play dough, lemon to the yellow play dough, and so on. Knead the play dough well to make sure the colours and scents are nicely mixed and evenly distributed.

Step three
Next is the fun part. Let the kids go wild moulding the play dough into different fruit shapes, and get them to add their green leaves and stalks to finish off their masterpiece.