Kid Stuff

And This is Why We Don’t Have Playdough

We made homemade playdough and it was enough to remind me why we had no playdough available to start with. I’ll share the recipe we used, just in case you’d like to give it a try with your kids. (scroll to bottom for recipe) It’s great for about 20 minutes of frustration in the kitchen, followed by days of picking little playdough shreds off the ground. (Of course your experience may differ depending on the child involved…)

homemade playdough

Don’t get me wrong. We have had plenty of playdough in this house. The good stuff- Play Doh brand playdough. We even handed out Play Doh Valentines at school. But eventually every toy was caked with playdough crud, and various patches were crusted into the carpet, never to come clean. I still find mysterious fossilized remnants of old playdough projects lurking under the couch and in the bottom of toy chests.

Somehow, All the Playdough Disappeared…

So one by one, as my requests to put the playdough back in the containers with the lids on was ignored, they all dried up and and quietly disappeared. And then last week, during one of the many long days of this never-ending summer of COVID and being stuck at home, my son noticed we had plenty of playdough toys, but no playdough.

I was prepared for this! I had purchased the ingredients for making homemade playdough over a year ago, but never took the plunge because we had plenty of the stuff already. Most of the recipes require Cream of Tartar, which is curiously not creamy at all and not something I normally keep around. You can find it in the spice aisle of the grocery store.

I looked it up and learned Cream of Tartar is the acidic byproduct of fermenting grapes into wine, otherwise known as potassium bitartrate. It’s used a lot in baking, which explains why I was unfamiliar with it. I am, however, very familiar with wine, haha. The other ingredients are all quite common – flour, salt, oil, water, food coloring.

Homemade playdough ingredients

Let’s Make Some Playdough! It Will Be Fun They Said!

I thought it would be fun to involve my 5-year-old son in the making of the playdough. I don’t know why I keep thinking things like this. Flour and salt were everywhere in less than five minutes. I finally took over and told him he could be in charge of mixing the colors. The actual making of the playdough is pretty simple and would probably take less than 10 minutes on your own.

The recipe I followed suggest adding five drops of food coloring, so I put the playdough and color drops in a baggie and handed it to my son. After a few minutes of squishing it and not seeing much going on, he handed me the bag and requested I finish up while he went to play with his cars.

So I squished and squished and added more drops of food coloring and kept squishing until I painstakingly made separate bags of red, blue, and green dough. The colors were still pretty mild even after I added more food coloring. I have no idea how much it takes to get a good vibrant color.

The Final Product

And finally, proud of my handiwork, I presented the kid with our first homemade playdough. He immediately took them all out of the baggies and proceeded to squish them into one multi-colored blob. At this point I sighed and walked away and let him have his fun the way he wanted.

Playing with playdough and cars

I came back into the room a few minutes later, curious about the explosion noises, and was greeted with a pile of tiny playdough shreds EVERYWHERE because he was literally pretending it was exploding as he jammed little cars into the playdough blobs. Little squishy dough shreds on the table, around the table, tracked from the room and into the hall as he scavenged more cars to sacrifice to the now mottled gray blob.

And then I remembered, Oh Yeah. THIS IS WHY WE DON’T HAVE PLAYDOUGH.

I am convinced this homemade playdough made an even bigger mess than store-bought playdough. But the good news is that it cleaned up easier. And by that I mean it dissolved quite well in water. I was able to take all the toy cars and put them in a bucket of water and later they all came out effortlessly clean and playdough-free. It all wiped up rather easily from the table and floor as well. Not sure how it does in carpet because I didn’t let him anywhere near anything that wasn’t tile.

So after reading all this, are you ready to take the plunge and make your own playdough? If so, I’ve got the recipe!

Blob of homemade playdough



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup salt
  • 4 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • Food coloring
  • Plastic baggies for separate colors


  1. Start by mixing all the dry ingredients in a large pot on the stove.
  2. Turn the heat on Medium .
  3. Add the water and oil and mix (you can also add color now if you are just making one color)
  4. Mix, mix, mix until it turns in solid dough.
  5. Remove from heat.
  6. Let it cool a bit and then you can add colors to it. Mix it in the plastic baggies so you don’t stain your hands. Most recipes suggest starting with 5 drops, but it took me 10+ to get good colors.

Afterwards, you can bag it back up and all the posts I read said it should be good for about three months. And that’s probably how long it will be before I forget about the giant mess and let my son play with it again.

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