This is the best homemade play dough recipe ever! It’s quick and easy to make, and turns out soft and pliable. It even smells like the store-bought kind. Learn how to make it below.
This homemade playdough will last a long time too, as long as you keep in an airtight container. (See container ideas below.)
First, let’s talk about two different kinds of play dough recipes you’ll find: there’s a no-cook variety that’s fun for kids to make, and then there’s the playdough recipe you heat up on the stove. Both are easy and both are fun, but you’ll get the best results with the stovetop kind that does use cream of tartar as an ingredient.
The no-cook version of play dough without cream of tartar relies on salt for its texture, and in my experience doesn’t feel or handle as nicely as the play dough recipe below. I will also add the no-cook playdough recipe in case that’s what you’re looking for.
In my opinion, this is the better recipe for homemade play dough. Older kids can help make it if you’re comfortable with them stirring things on the stove, but it does get hot.
Tips for Making this Play Dough Recipe
This recipe is super easy, but there’s one point where you need to act quickly. When you first add ingredients to the pan, the mixture is going to look too wet to ever form a dough. But as you stir it over the heat, there comes a point when it just all comes together.
So you’re stirring and stirring, and then all at once it’s like, boom! Play dough. That’s when you remove it from the heat. So keep stirring and stirring until that happens.
Once it becomes dough, act quickly to move it off the heat. Have a hot pad or trivet nearby so you can set it down and turn off the heat on the stove.
This is where it will be really tempting to reach in and knead the dough. Don’t do it. It’s extremely hot. (Ask me how I know!)
Just give the homemade play dough some minutes to sit there and cool off. You can use your silicone scraper to pull together any dough that’s sticking to the bottom or sides, but try to avoid the parts that have already hardened and dried. (This stuff is easy to remove from the pan later when you’re washing it with warm soapy water.)
After it has cooled it’s ready to work with! If you’ve waited until now to color the dough, separate it into sections and cover the unused portions with some plastic wrap or put them into airtight jars or plastic containers.
When to add food coloring to your play dough
Adding color to the water before you mix all the ingredients together gives you a really nice, uniform color, so that’s best and easiest if you’re making it all one color.
However, this homemade play dough recipe makes a fairly large batch, so you could wait to color it later so you can have multiple colors.
It takes a lot of kneading to get the color to spread throughout the already-made dough, but isn’t that kind of the fun of play dough anyway? And if you want to stop short, you’ll get a nice striated design that’s kind of cool.
To color play dough after it’s made…
Flatten out the piece of dough you’re working with and put a few drops of your chosen food coloring across the top. Fold the dough and begin kneading it. This is fun and the kids can do it, but it is messy. The food coloring may temporarily stain their hands (and probably permanently stain any upholstery or carpet, so keep an eye on them, lol). Add more drops of coloring as needed until you get the color intensity you want.
I used a sheet of parchment paper to protect the surface I was working on. You could also use a plastic tablecloth or even an old vinyl/plastic shower curtain. Anything non-porous is best. Newspaper might work, but you would want to have double or triple layers because the food coloring could seep through.
Play Dough Storage Container Ideas
The absolute easiest way to store the homemade play dough is in airtight plastic baggies. But other airtight containers will work as well! Here are some ideas – all free – for storing your homemade play dough:
- empty yogurt cups with lids
- Clean jelly jars, mason jars, or other glass canning jars
- Clean plastic lunchmeat tubs with lids
- Old store-bought play dough containers
You get the idea!
My absolute favorite homemade playdough recipe that comes together quickly and easily on the stovetop. Wonderfully soft and pliable, just like the real thing!
- 1 cup of water
- a few drops of food coloring
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 1 cup of flour
- 1/2 cup of salt
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- a few drops of extract or essential oils for fragrance (optional)
- Mix the water and food coloring in a glass bowl (or right in the glass measuring cup). Add the oil. If you're going to add fragrance with an extract or essential oils, now is a good time to do it.
- Stir together the flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the colored water/oil mixture until all the ingredients are well-combined.
- Continue stirring until the mixture starts to thicken, and be sure to scrape the bottom and sides as it does.
- As soon as the playdough comes together, remove the pan from heat and allow to cool before you touch it.
Store at room temperature in airtight containers or plastic zipper bags. If playdough seems dry, knead in a drop or two of oil.