Friday, April 16, 2010


Ragnarson is a big "play-doh" fan. He likes to shred it into little pieces, grind it into the upholstery, mash all the colors together into a uniform muddy "sludge," and even occasionally make something out of it...usually snakes, or dog poop, which look amazingly similar. Since one of the things he does with it is eat it, I figured I would try to make my own, so that at least I know what it is that he's eating. Hasbro claims that the exact ingredients are proprietary, although it is mostly water, salt and flour. There's got to be something else in it though, else how would it have that uniquely foul "play-doh" smell.

There are several recipes for play-doh floating around. I chose the slightly more complicated one, thinking that the addition of oil and cream of tarter might make for a nicer "consistency" in the finished product.

The recipe is:

1 cup flour
1 cup warm water
2 tsp cream of tarter
1 tsp oil
1/4 cup salt
and food coloring

I had all this stuff sitting around in my kitchen, except for the cream or tarter and the food coloring, but I decided to buy "cheap" versions for this project instead of using my lovely King Arthur Flour and sea salt...the total ended up being right around $10, most of which was for the food coloring. I made a double batch and have at least enough supplies for one more double batch, so that makes this just slightly less expensive than "real" play-doh.
First you mix it all together, which is Ragnarson's favorite part of any project. I left the food coloring out so that I could make several different colors, but it would be much easier to mix it in at this point for a single color batch. When everything is mixed together you cook it over medium-low heat until it all sticks together. At first I was afraid I had done something wrong because the bottom layer gelled up almost immediately leaving a soupy mess on the top of the pan, but with continued stirring the texture evened out and it all stuck together. I didn't photograph this step because it came together a lot faster than I anticipated and I was afraid to leave the stove to fetch the camera.
I decided to do four colors because there were four colors of food coloring in the package.
I squirted about a dozen drops or so of the food coloring into a small zip top bag and then added the un-dyed dough wad to squish. If you were doing this project with older children I imagine the bag squishing would be a favorite step...we'll look forward to that in the future, eh Ragnarson?
Squish until all the food coloring is absorbed into the clay. The finished wad is then pretty color safe, and it doesn't dye your hands.
I'm storing all the colors together in one bag, since I figured they'd all turn to "sludge" soon enough.

The finished product is a little less "gritty" than "real" play-doh, and as a result can be much more throughly ground into upholstery. It's water soluble, though, and so far cleans up pretty easily. I did this a couple of weeks ago and the dough is still nice and squishy in it's bag, and doesn't show any signs of rancidity or funky-smell.

Total time invested, about half an hour, and no messier than any normal baking project would be. I'm looking forward to doing this again, possibly with more "help" from the young one. only slightly discolored from food coloring.


Meghan said...

Totally awesome! We should do craft parties for the kids and get several together - play do, tye-dye, ornaments . More hands make easy work. Great project.

Ragnar said...

I think that's a great idea Meghan. Anyone who wants to could "sponsor" a project, and we could split up the material costs.

Victor said...

that is so darn cool, i love it... makes me actually wish i kids right now (yeah i want kids, just not yet)... looks so fun!