Do you want to know the secrets to making the perfect batch of homemade playdough? This is the ultimate troubleshooting guide! Here you will find all the tips and tricks on how to make homemade playdough, plus all our best (and fool-proof) playdough recipes.
Tips & Tricks for Perfecting Any Play Dough Recipe
Everyone loves homemade playdough, but do you know the secret tricks to perfecting a batch? Uncover all of these mysteries with our ultimate troubleshooting guide! You’ll be an expert in no time!
Playdough is a fantastic tool for sensory exploration in the classroom – and at home! Its vibrant colors, squishy texture, and incredible malleability make it perfect for keeping kids busy while also honing their hand strength and fine motor skills.
Just one bin of play dough can equal hours of imaginative fun – right at your fingertips!
But store bought play dough can get expensive, especially if you have preschoolers who like to mix the colors. Or, if you enjoy offering playdough invitations to play. This makes it all the more important for you to not only have a reliable diy playdough recipe, but to also know how to fix playdough on the rare occasion it doesn’t turn out.
From how to make playdough less sticky to how to get it our of your carpet, this guide will spill all the secrets!
What is the Best Homemade Playdough Recipe?
With countless of tried and true playdough recipes to choose from, selecting the perfect one can be tricky. Fortunately I have identified my favorites that guarantee a successful sensory play every time! These three standouts serve up distinctive textures and sensations that take every playdough invitation to play to a whole new level!
Homemade Playdough Without Cream of Tartar
My fail-proof recipe – the one I always come back to – is my playdough recipe with cream of tartar. Here’s why I like it:
- It’s no cook.
- It’s small batch, making it easy to make multiple colors.
- It’s scented, but that’s optional.
- And do I even need to mention that it doesn’t call for cream of tartar?
Silky Soft Playdough Recipe without Cream of Tartar
This recipe is out of the ordinary because it’s silky smooth texture is unbeatable. It’s velvety and soft and it’s so pliable. If you have a preschooler who is lacking hand strength, this is a good dough to start with. Here’s all it’s perks:
- It’s no-cook.
- It doesn’t require cream of tartar.
- It’s even salt free, which helps with it’s smooth texture.
Orange Creamsicle Playdough Recipe
This recipe truly delights the senses! The familiar scent of an orange creamsicle will whisk you away to a tropical paradise, making this playdough experience extra fun and exciting. Here’s what we love about this recipe:
- It smells delicious!
- It only has three ingredients.
- Which means it doesn’t recipe cream of tartar.
- It’s another no-cook recipe!
Tips for Making Homemade Playdough that Lasts
Now that we have our favorite and must-try recipes identified, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty stuff. Let’s answer all the questions about when playdough doesn’t work out.
Even I have had some playdough fails. On occasion, I don’t do something quirt right and end up with playdough that is sticky, or crumbly, or it turns moldy, or…or my kid took a giant bite of it and swallowed! Despite our best efforts and taking persuasions, sometimes we need to troubleshoot.
Why is my homemade playdough sticky?
There’s nothing more disappointing than handing over freshly made playdough to anticipating hands only to find that the playdough is sticky.
Here’s what went wrong:
- The playdough needs to cool completely and “set up”.
- The playdough needs more flour.
If the problem is the first, then let the playdough cool completely on wax paper before playing. If it is still too sticky, then add more flour, but only a tablespoon at a time. Knead the dough thoroughly between tablespoons.
Why is my playdough crumbly?
The opposite effect can also happen. Sometimes playdough can turn out too crumbly. When this happens, it’s like picky up little bits of mud that has been traipsed through the house. It’s not malleable and the dry texture just frustrates preschoolers.
Here’s what went wrong:
- The playdough needs less flour.
- It might need just a touch more oil.
If the problem is the first, then add more flour, but only a teaspoon (and not a tablespoon) at a time. Knead the dough thoroughly before adding more water. Once you get to the point where you’re not sure if you should add another teaspoon of water, try adding a touch more oil and knead some more. Fixing crumbly playdough is kind of like grilling a steak – it’s a little science and also a little art, too.
What if the playdough is dried out because it was left out?
If the playdough has been left out and dried into a rock-solid (or very hard) piece, it’s at the point of no return. What’s dried is dried and it cannot be fixed.
But playdough that has dried out slightly but still somewhat pliable is something we can work with! Put the playdough in a mixing bowl and spray it a few times with a squirt bottle. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and allow to sit overnight. Knead well the next morning. “Rinse and repeat” the process until the playdough is restored to its full glory.
When should I add the food coloring?
I’ve been making playdough for a long time, and have found the food coloring mixes the best with the wet ingredients. AKA: add food coloring to the water. This will allow the color to be mixed thoroughly and easily.
Add just a little more food coloring than you think you will need because once the colored water is added to the dry ingredients, the color will soften and not be quite as vivid. If you find the playdough still isn’t dark enough, just knead in another drop of food color. But wear gloves for this!
What kind of food coloring should I use to color playdough?
It really doesn’t matter. I prefer gel food coloring for everything, so that’s what I always use. But liquid food color is ok too. You won’t be adding enough liquid to change the consistency of the playdough.
How long does homemade playdough last?
Most homemade playdough will last 2-3 months if stored properly. Salt based playdough recipes will naturally last longer than recipes without salt. Whichever you choose, you can lengthen the life of your playdough by doing a couple of things:
Here’s what to do:
- Wash your hands before playing with playdough.
- Use only freshly cleaned playdough accessories.
- Store playdough in an air tight container. The less air touching the playdough the better.
- Use essential oils to ward off bacteria.
Does homemade playdough get moldy?
You bet it can! Homemade playdough doesn’t have the additives that makes it shelf stable, like store bought playdough does. However, choosing playdough recipes with cream of tartar or salt can help keep your playdough lasting longer.
Is my playdough moldy or what is that?
If your playdough molds, it will have white, green, or blue fuzzy patches. The keyword here is fuzzy. Mold on playdough will always present as fuzzy. If you find mold growth on your playdough, it’s safe to say it’d had a good like and it’s time to toss it. Mold can be prevented by keeping playdough in a dry, air-tight container.
But if your playdough has formed crunchy-looking, whitish patches, often in round or lumpy shapes, that’s not mold. Those are salt crystals! Playdough is made primarily of water, salt, and flour. As it dries out, the water evaporates away. Leaving the salt behind in crunchy, lumpy patches.
Does homemade playdough need to be refridgerated?
When stored properly, in an air tight container, playdough does not need to be refrigerated. All DIY playdough recipes will eventually expire, like all other “food” items. If it makes you feel better to keep it in the fridge, you can do so. Just let it come to room temperature before playing with it.
Other Commonly Asked Playdough Questions
I do a lot of playdough activities with my preschoolers. It really is a staple in my classroom. We use playdough to practice writing, to stay focused, and of course to just have fun! Here are some other commonly asked questions about playdough.
Is homemade playdough edible?
No, not all. While homemade playdough is make up of familiar food items, traditional recipes of flour and salt are not considered edible. They are, however, considered taste-safe.
What’s the difference between edible and taste safe?
When is comes to making playdough at home, edible playdough means that it is 100% safe to eat the dough. You child can take a big knob of dough and gulp it down and be none the wiser for it. An example of this is my Edible Gingerbread Playdough.
Taste safe means that the dough is made of food items, and a tiny taste won’t be harmful, but it is not recommended to eat. Taste safe doughs are typically those that are high in salt. While a little nibble probably won’t hurt your little one, anything more could result in an upset stomach. So we refer to this as taste safe.
The best rule of thumb is this: If you, the supervising adult, won’t eat it, then neither should your little one.
Is homemade playdough toxic to dogs?
Salt is a toxin to dogs, so since homemade playdough typically requires a significant amount of salt, it is considered toxic to dogs, (and probably all other animals). It is important to keep all playdough properly stored and out of the reach of your household animals. Signs of toxicity to pets will present within three hours of ingestion.
Here are the signs of toxicity:
- shortness of breath
Does playdough stain?
Despite using food coloring or drink mixes to color my playdough, I’ve never had homemade playdough satin anything except my hands while kneading. That said, the internet says otherwise.
Here’s how to get a playdough stain out.
- Remove from the spot as much of the playdough as possible.
- Apply rubbing alcohol to a clean white cloth and then blot the playdough stain.
- Apply a small amount of detergent to the spot. use a blotting motion to work the detergent into the stain.
- Rinse with tap water and blot with a towel to remove excess.
- Repeat as needed.
Will playdough harden or dry hard? Can playdough be baked?
Yes! If your playdough recipe includes salt, the dough can be used like sculpting material and will harden fully. The salt helps keep the structure of the playdough as the flour dries out.
How to harden playdough to make a keepsake
- Use toothpicks to keep appendages in place (like the trunk on an elephant)
- Allow to air dry for 1-3 days, OR
- Dry in the oven for a thirty minutes to an hour on the lowest setting. (This has a higher rate of cracking).
- Seal the playdough using clear nail polish, liquid school glue, or modge podge.
Can playdough be composted?
Some playdough can be composed. Some playdough cannot. Let me explain.
Play Doh brand is biodegradable, but that does not mean it is compostable. It includes additives that could ruin compose. When making playdough at home it’s really common to add fun items that are not compostable, like glitter or styrofoam beads. Neither of those are good for your compost pile.
What is the exception to this rule?
If you make playdough that had no extra add-ins, it can be composed. That means if you follow the most basic playdough recipe of flour, salt, and water, you can compose the playdough. However, before composting playdough, read this article.
Final Thoughts on Making Playdough
Playing with homemade playdough is a fun activity for you and your kids too. It is cost-effective, durable, and you can have your kind of dough – be it sparkly or glittery.
Hence, by following these tips and ideas, you can get the playdough you want. So, what are you waiting for? Summon your creative side and make your homemade playdough!
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.
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