Tried-and-True Homemade Play Dough

Tried-and-true for over thirty years!

Play dough. Hands-on creative fun with the ability to build motor skills. It is a staple in many homes and schools.


As a high school student employed as a teacher’s assistant, I was introduced to an amazing homemade version of a timeless childhood treasure.

Play dough.

Part of my role as the assistant was to make sure the play dough was fresh, every day. Sometimes that meant making a new batch of pliable goodness. Over thirty years later (and counting) I am still using the same recipe with my littles.


2 cups flour

1 cup salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar (cream of tartar acts as a preservative)

2 cups cold water

Food coloring

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon OR a few drops of essential oil

Wooden cutting board or clear counter space

Air tight plastic bag or container


1. In a medium saucepan, mix together the flour, salt, vegetable oil, cream of tartar, and water. Stir well. Add 5 to 6 drops of food coloring and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon or essential oil. 

2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the dough is the consistency of mashed potatoes; about 5 minutes.

3. Spoon onto wooden cutting board or wax paper covered counter top.

4. Knead until smooth.

5. Store play dough in an airtight plastic zipper bag or container up to 6 months.

Knead, roll and pat to build fine motor skills.

Play dough is not just for molding and making. 


  • Make a long rope and form into letters. Begin with the first letter of the child's first name (this is important to them). 
  • Make a long rope and form into numbers.
  • Make a long rope. Ask the child to cut the rope into specified number of equal parts. This can be used to introduce and reinforce the concept of fractional parts. 
  • Make a long rope. Ask the child to divide the rope so that each person in the room receives an equal number of pieces. This reinforces the concept of division. 
  • Cut circles from the play dough. Cut the circles into equal parts, fractional pieces. 

Perhaps this recipe will be a new favorite in your home.