Tonawanda News

June 25, 2013

PINSPIRED: Homemade play 'dough' gets mixed results

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Ah, Play-Doh.

The squishiness. The squashiness. The faintly chemical smell. It’s like childhood nostalgia all wrapped up and stuffed in a familiar yellow can. 

I loved the stuff when I was a kid. My boys ... not so much. They’ll play with it for a bit, then it’s off to their other interests, leaving me sitting at the table calling after them in vain, “Look! It’s a dog! Guys?”

Still, when I came across the recipe for homemade play dough on Pinterest, I couldn’t resist. Maybe it could be a nice source for cheap, easy fun could sway them to my side.

The instructions and ingredients are simple. Combine 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar and 1/3 cup salt in a large saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1 cup of water. Stir together, place saucepan over stove burner on low-medium and keep stirring.

The recipe claimed it would take about 3 minutes until the mixture started coming together. I stirred. And I stirred. The slightly lumpy mixture became a viscous goo ... and no further.

Finally, about 7 minutes in, I sprinkled in about another 1/4 cup flour and increased the heat to medium. Within two minutes, I saw a difference as things started to solidify. Your mileage may vary, of course (I’m sure differences in stoves play a role as well), but keep this in mind if you have the same issue.

At this point, I added a healthy dollop of blue gel food coloring — ending up with a mixture that resembled molten Smurf — and kept stirring. It didn’t take long, maybe a minute, before the stuff was bona fide dough, gathered around my spatula and able to be dumped out on a piece of waxed paper to cool for a while. (After that, you can store it in a resealable bag.)

And the boys thought it was neat. They poked it, prodded it, molded a few snakes and mountains ... and then ran off to other things. 

There are things I like about this recipe. I know everything that went into it; there are doubtless fewer chemicals than the commercial stuff. (And I bet you could substitute rice flour for regular flour for children with wheat allergies, although I haven’t tried it.) It’s cheap and takes ingredients I already had in the house, and makes a big batch, about three to four times the size of a commercial can of dough. And despite the longer-than-expected cooking time, it still took less than 15 minutes.

But unless we move into a major Play-Doh phase with our family, I don’t know that it’s worth the trouble. Fifteen minutes at the stove (plus cooling time) is 15 minutes that could be spent on other things, and we’d have to repeat it multiple times to get a decent array of colors.

But if you have a family of Play-Doh fans, give it a try.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. Find us on by searching “Greater Niagara Newspapers.” 

• WHAT: Homemade play dough • DIFFICULTY: Easy • TIME: 10-15 minutes plus cooling time • RESULT: Pin it if your kids (or you) really like playing with similar modeling compounds