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Since its invention in the 1930s, playdough has become one of the most popular arts and crafts materials used in school and at home. While the storebought stuff is usually readily available, playdough is also easy to make at home. It only takes 5 to 10 minutes to make and requires a few simple ingredients, making it a great option if you want to cook up hours of entertainment for your kids.

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What you'll need

For a basic playdough recipe, you will need:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (coconut oil and baby oil work as well)
  • Food coloring
  • 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar (optional)

This will make enough playdough for 1 to 3 people to play with, or enough for an art project.

Flour and water, the main ingredients for playdough, being mixed in a bowl. vinicef / Getty Images
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Making playdough using the cooking method

To cook playdough, add the water, oil, salt, and cream of tartar into a saucepan. Add food coloring if you only want playdough of one color. Turn the stove to medium heat. Once everything is warmed up, take it off the heat and add the flour and stir until the mixture has a creamy texture. After the playdough has cooled down a bit, put it on a table and knead it into balls. To avoid a mess, you can put handfuls inside plastic bags and knead them over the plastic. The number of balls you make will depend on how many different colors of playdough you want. Add food coloring to each ball when kneading. Once the color is fully incorporated, your playdough is ready to be played with!  

Midsection below view image of woman cooking food in pan. Utensil is placed on gas stove. Female is stirring dish in frying pan. She is preparing food in domestic kitchen. Neustockimages / Getty Images
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How to make a no-cook playdough

Cooked playdough lasts longer, and some say it has a better texture. However, no-cook playdough is quicker to make. To make playdough without cooking, mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add hot water, oil, and cream of tartar. Stir until it has a smooth consistency. Separate the playdough into chunks and add food coloring to each one. If you use different colors, wash your hands between kneading each ball.

Add water into flour. Making Puff Pastry Series. sanapadh / Getty Images
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Making playdough without cream of tartar

Playdough made with cream of tartar can last months. Without it, playdough only survives about 4 weeks. However, cream of tartar isn't the most common kitchen item. If you don't have it, you can still make playdough⁠—just replace the cream of tartar with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Alternatively, you can follow the same recipes above and just omit the cream of tartar.

Bowl of lemon juice, an alternative to cream of tartar when making playdough rez-art / Getty Images
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Tips for making the best playdough

The key to making quality playdough is getting the consistency right. To achieve the best texture, slowly combine wet and dry ingredients to make sure the dough does not come out too wet or too dry. When kneading the dough, use a paper plate or wax paper covered in some flour to keep the dough from sticking. Also, if you add food coloring while cooking the playdough, clean your saucepan immediately because it could stain.

wax paper covered in flour, helps when kneading playdough LightFieldStudios / Getty Images
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How to make gluten-free playdough

There are two ways to make gluten-free playdough. The first option is to use one cup of baking soda, half a cup of corn starch, and slightly less than one cup of water. Mix all the ingredients together and cook until they are solid. It should only take a few minutes before you have a celiac-friendly version of playdough.

Corn starch, an ingredient in gluten-free playdough minadezhda / Getty Images
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How to make scented or glitter playdough

To make scented playdough, add two tablespoons of any spice or a few drops of essential oil when stirring the playdough. Some spices that work well with playdough are cinnamon, cocoa powder, or vanilla extract. A 1/4 ounce package of Koolaid is another great option and comes with coloring. For sparkly playdough, add as much glitter as you want when kneading. Additionally, add glow in the dark paint for glow in the dark playdough.

Two little girls are playing with plasticine. Georgijevic / Getty Images
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Storing your playdough

Keep playdough from drying out by putting it in sealed plastic bags or any airtight container and leaving it in the fridge. It shouldn't dry out, but if it does, simply add a bit of water to it. Cooked playdough made with cream of tartar can last up to 6 months.

Young mom and her baby boy (2 years) at home playing with modeling clay dough. Martinns / Getty Images
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Fun playdough activities

The best part about playing with playdough is its versatility. Use it to create small sculptures, learn the alphabet, or to make landscapes and dioramas. For games, try a 3D version of Pictionary, using the playdough instead of a paper and pen. For a more relaxing use, make a stress ball by filling a balloon with playdough and tying the end.

Child's hands playing with playdough canyonos / Getty Images
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How to make playdough bath soap

You can also use playdough as bath soap. All you need to make playdough bath soap is corn starch, sulfate-free body wash, and food coloring. The food coloring washes out of the tub and off skin with water, so no need to worry about getting stained after it's made. Mix the cornstarch and body wash together. Add more corn starch if it's too wet and more body wash if it's too hard, then add the food coloring once you get the right consistency.

bright plasticine for children's creativity Liubov Kobtseva / Getty Images

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