Store bought play dough isn’t very malleable, and sometimes homemade play dough can dry out your hands from all the salt. This play dough recipe is the softest play dough you will ever touch, but the best part if that it’s a play dough recipe without cream of tartar!
But this play dough.
This play dough is our all-time absolute favorite play dough recipe in the history of play dough!I know it sounds a little dramatic, but it’s the first recipe that I go to. This is partly because it’s based on the play dough my mom used to make me when I was a kid, but also because of the texture.
Except, this play dough doesn’t call for cream of tartar, which is super handy because I never seem to have any on hand. Apparently, I’d rather make snickerdoodle cookies with the stuff instead. My point is, a play dough recipe that doesn’t call for cream of tartar should be in everyone’s preschool arsenal. (How else do we get through rainy days?)
It’s smooth and so, so silky. The cornstarch is what makes it so soft and pliable. The few tablespoons of vegetable oil help to keep little hands from drying out during play and to keep the dough from sticking to the table and play dough tools.
This recipe is also salt-free, so if you have a very little one who still explores by tasting, you won’t have to worry about your kiddies swallowing handfuls of salty dough. (Or that preschooler who licks his hands 43 times because he likes how the dough makes his hands taste salty…you know the kid). This recipe is completely taste-safe, which is a plus if you have a hand-licker.
Super Soft Play Dough Recipe without Cream of Tartar
I especially turn to this play dough recipe when I have a preschooler who needs to develop hand strengthening skills. The preschooler who is within the appropriate developmental range, but struggles with clothing fasteners, turning doorknobs, using scissors, or developing a mature pencil grasp might have low muscle tone and needs to develop hand strength. Since this play dough is soft and pliable, it’s the perfect starting point.
One year, I had a set of twins who had a terrible time turning doorknobs to open doors. Now, this has to do with hand strength because you have to turn the knob, keeping constant pressure, while pulling the door open. This was especially problematic if one of the twins got stuck in the bathroom. I introduced this super soft play dough and soon their fine motor skills were right where they needed to be for their age, including the ability to turn the doorknob and open the door!
Ingredients1 cup flour 1 cup corn starch 2 cups water 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 tablespoons vegetable oil food coloring (optional, but always fun)
Directions for the best play dough recipe without cream of tartar
Cook all the ingredients over low heat until the ingredients come together to make a doughy ball. Remove from heat. Allow to cool for a bit, then knead together.
Don’t add any extra flour or cornstarch until the dough is completely cooled. Like making a delicious sweet and sour sauce, the play dough won’t fully thicken until it is completely cooled. And of course, always allow the play dough to cool completely before letting children handle it.
Alternatively, you could use a two-cup glass heatproof measuring cup to boil the water and lemon juice in the microwave, then very carefully pour over the dry ingredients.
Once the dough is completely cooled, if you do find it a little sticky, just add in more cornstarch a few tablespoons at a time. If after playing for a while you find the dough to be too crumbly, just use a spray bottle to spray the dough, knead slightly, and store overnight and it will be like new the next day.
Do you have a favorite play dough recipe without cream of tartar? I’d love to hear the play dough recipes you use with the children.
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.