Have you ever made your own homemade natural play dough before? It’s easier than you’d think! Read below to see how (and why!).
During the past 8 years or so I’ve been on a quest to eliminate as many chemicals and toxins from our home as possible. This has meant growing our own fruits and vegetables, raising our own animals, and making cleaning supplies from simple, nontoxic ingredients.
Every once in a while I’ll catch myself saying, “I’m never going to make my own laundry detergent, baby wipes, make up, yogurt, or whatever,” only to find myself making and liking that homemade and healthy item a few months later.
Modeling clay, aka “play dough,” falls into this category. Why would anyone bother making such a cheap and seemingly harmless item when it’s so – well – cheap and seemingly harmless. I’m not saying that commercial modeling clay is harmful; I’m just saying that after a quick look at it’s ingredient list, I’m not wild about my kiddo taking that inevitable bite out of it. Let’s take a look at the ingredients of a popular brand of modeling clay:
- Starch-based binder
- Retrogradation inhibitor
Yuck! Now I’m “eating” my words and have found a homemade natural play dough my toddler can literally take a bite out of! An added benefit to making your own is that you can customize the amount, color, scent and even its calming, immune boosting or joyful properties.
That’s right! I said that your child can stay busy playing with this stuff and also reap one of the aforementioned benefits just by adding this secret ingredient: essential oils.
First, let’s take a look at this super simple recipe, and then we’ll discuss how you can modify it to suit your household needs.
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup salt
- 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons oil
- coloring (see post for recommendations)
- Combine one cup of flour, half a cup of salt and 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar in a saucepan.
- Next, add one cup of hot water and 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil. I used olive oil because that was what I had on hand but you can use any type of vegetable oil you have in the kitchen.
- Heat the mixture slowly, whisking or stirring until it forms a ball and is a âplay dough-like consistency. This recipe calls for a bit more cream of tartar than many playdough recipes and for good reason. The cream of tartar creates a smoother, silkier, stretchier playdough so itâs simply superior stuff.
Now comes the fun part. Once it’s cool enough to handle, add your coloring. You could simply reach for your run of the mill food coloring, but if you’ve made the journey along this natural road so far, why not venture a little further?
Let’s take a look at your natural food coloring options. A super simple solution that can be found at your local natural food store or co-op is a box of all natural food coloring.
Another much cheaper option is to color your homemade natural play dough with food items already in your kitchen.
I used beet juice, turmeric and spirulina powder to create pink, yellow and green playdough. It’s actually a lot of fun to search through your cabinets and fridge to see what you can come up with as a homemade dye. I was worried that the red beet juice would stain my toddler’s hands or the countertop but it only stained the hands mixing it into the playdough—mine. So if that worries you, just use a spoon.
I let my daughter, Claire, mix in the other colors because it was great fun for her to watch as the deep yellow and green colors blend into the monotone palette of the original batch of dough.
It’s an interactive way for your preschooler to learn how to make darker shades by adding more coloring agent. Added bonus: it keeps her busy while I move on to clean the pot and utensils.
One downfall to using food items as food coloring is that they aren’t as concentrated as the food coloring bottles found in stores. This means you need to use a lot of the food based coloring agent or settle for a little lighter shade.
Originally, I wanted to make a blue play dough, but I had already harvested and used all the purple cabbage from the garden in salads and sauerkraut. This led me to the idea of using my purple sauerkraut juice as a coloring agent. This, dear friends, was not a good idea. As nutritious and delicious as it may be, a coloring agent it is not. The juice gave the play dough a slimy feel, and the smell was not exactly what I would want in a toddler activity. Take my advice and skip the sauerkraut juice; stick to non-fermented food items!
Here are some other natural food coloring ideas:
You know that distinctive play dough smell? This play dough is odorless until you add the exciting part—essential oils!
High quality, therapeutic grade essential oils from Young Living are great for play dough! When your children come into contact with the oils, they are absorbed into the skin. From there they quickly enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. Simultaneously, as the oils are absorbed into the skin, the scent is inhaled. When essential oils are inhaled the tiny oil molecules pass through the membranes in our sinus cavities entering the bloodstream. (Remember why we wanted to eliminate all those pesky chemicals in the first place?) Below are some of my favorite essential oils to add to playdough and their benefits to your children:
- Thieves™—Supports lungs and sinuses; aids a healthy immune system
- Lemon—Seasonal respiratory support, normalizes body temperature
- Lavender—Calming, promotes restful sleep, seasonal respiratory support, aids the healing of minor burns and scrapes
- Joy™—Mood balancing, relieves stress
- Peace and Calming™—Calms nerves, eases sleeplessness, tantrums, overactivity
- Peppermint—Normalizes body temperature, gas, nausea
Is your kid home sick from school? Whip up a batch of Thieves™ or Peppermint play dough. Does your little one have a hard time falling asleep at night? Let her play with play dough scented with Peace and Calming™ or Lavender before your bedtime routine.
It’s hard to go back to commercial play dough after you’ve tried this recipe. It is soft, chemical free and healing!