Thursday, November 17, 2011

Naturally Scented and Dyed Playdough

Playdough is great.  It's an activity ready to go - no other materials neccessary (unless you want to add in some fun tools).  It's also a great sensory experience for little ones and helps to build the finger muscles of a growing toddler.   Instead of buying playdough from the store (which always seems to dry out so quickly), I make my own at home which ends up being way cheaper.  I bought the supplies in bulk at my local WinCo store - $0.85 for 6 pounds of salt, $2.75 for 7 pounds of flour!  I was able to get enough materials to make this recipe about 20 times for under $15 dollars, not including the homemade food dyes.  Plus, making it on my own means I know what is in it.
Okay, so first things first, here's the recipe.  It's a pretty common playdough recipe but the mom at I Sew, Do You? took some great pictures and makes it really easy to follow.

Awesome Recipe:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup water
food coloring

Mix everything in a pot over low heat until it starts to pull away from the pot into a ball.  Put the cooked dough on wax paper and knead a little to smooth it out.  Now you're ready to go!

On my last few batches of playdough, I decided to add some scents and go for natural food coloring.  I was making it for a playdate with some other moms and I thought I'd spruce it up a bit!  I don't have anything majorly against food coloring because it's not like I give Olive a bunch of sprinkles and colored candy to eat every day.  But I thought I'd try making some natural food dyes for fun!  The moms at Play at Home Mom gave me the inspiration to create my own dyes and I took it from there!

How to make your own food based dyes:
1) Add 1 cup water to a small pot.  
2) Add in 1 cup fruit/veggie or a few tablespoons of a colorful spice.  
3) Bring to a boil and then let simmer and reduce for about 15 minutes.
4) Strain dye into a bowl.  (I used a mess strainer and put a paper towel on top.  You could use pantyhose or cheesecloth, too.)
5) Store your dye in small containers or plastic baggies!

Here are my "solutions" cooking:


Safflower and Paprika





Here are the dyes after they were strained and bagged.  As you can see, some of the solutions reduced more than others:

Lastly, I've been experimenting with scented playdough.  I've research a lot of different methods online and come up with a few on my own.  To get scents into the dough you can add a variety of things such as:  extracts, koolaid, spices, tea leaf, etc.   Whatever you choose, just add it to the mixture while you're cooking it along with everything else.   Here is the playdough I made for my playdough playmate this week using my natural dyes and scents!

Top row, left to right:
1) Scent - 3 tbsp chocolate powder, Dye - none, the chocolate acts as a dye
2) Scent - 1 tbsp vanilla extract, Dye - none
3) Scent - licorice using ground fennel seeds, Dye - blueberry
4) Scent - 2 tbsp cinnamon, Dye - cinnamon

Bottom row, left to right:
1) Scent - contents of 2 orange spice tea bags, Dye - Safflower/Paprika
2) Scent - 2 tbsp apple pie spice, Dye - strawberry (the spice added color, too)
3) Scent - contents of 2 peppermint tea bags, Dye - strawberry
4) Scent - 2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice, Dye - turmeric (spice adds color, too)

Have fun experimenting with your own scents and dyes and please leave a comment if you come up with any awesome ones!  I'd love to hear about it! :)


  1. Thanks for all the recipes for play dough. Your presentation and photos are great!

  2. Great tutorial! Thanks :)

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