Homemade Playdough

With four boys, ages six and under, I consider myself expert in a few (just a few) things. Like, the art of making bathrooms smell unboyish (sorry to have to bring that subject up here, in such polite company), making four PB&J sandwiches in 30 seconds flat, breaking up impromptu wrestling matches, and making playdough.

We play with a lot of playdough around these parts, and although I initially questioned the appropriateness of posting this non-food recipe here on this food blog, I figured I couldn’t keep my secret for sanity hidden any longer. Playdough keeps my kids happy and busy on many occasions while I fix dinner. And that fact alone makes me heart playdough in a big way.

This playdough recipe, made for the last 20 years by my Aunt Marilyn and the last six years by me, is wonderful in the fact that it isn’t as sticky and residual as other homemade playdough recipes I’ve made, which makes the clean-up even easier. And do we even need to talk about how homemade playdough is seriously pennies cheaper than store-bought? Suffice it to say, not only will making this playdough save you money, but it just might win you mother-father -friend-sister-brother-aunt-uncle-babysitter-of-the-year-award.

One Year Ago: The Best Cheeseball
Two Years Ago: Magic in the Middle Cookies

Homemade Playdough

Yield: Makes about 2 1/2 cups of playdough

Homemade Playdough


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil, like canola or vegetable
  • 4-6 drops food coloring


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the dry ingredients. In a 2-cup or larger liquid measuring cup, combine the water, oil, and food coloring. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball (it will be shaggy and messy looking). This should only take a few minutes.
  2. On a lightly greased countertop, turn out the playdough and knead until smooth. Store the playdough in a tightly covered container or ziploc bag. Tightly covered, the playdough will keep for several months.

Recipe Source: from Aunt Marilyn

Playdough How-To

49 Responses to Homemade Playdough

  1. Danielle says:

    We love this stuff…and some other comment mentioned it, but we always add a packet of kool aid powder. Smells yummy!!

  2. Connie Yearsley says:

    I am now a grandmother of little ones i babysit and i remember this recipe when my children were small…loved it then and will let you know now…keeps little hands busy and laughter in the room…and love it now…..Thanks for letting me share.

  3. Rachel R. says:

    This is the best home made playdough. It truly does last months.

  4. mykitchen says:

    And also, is there a reason why we add so much salt? Does salt act like a preservative?

  5. mykitchen says:

    Hi, thank you 4 this recipe, and what if i do not have cream of tartar, will i get the same consistency without using that? just curious to try without cream of tartar, since all the other ingredients are readily available at home at this moment. Thanks

    • Mel says:

      mykitchen – the cream of tartar is important in this recipe but you could try it without. And yes, the salt acts as a preservative.

  6. […] Homemade Playdough from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe […]

  7. Shauntel says:

    I just added 1 T of pumpkin pie spice to this. And there you have it – pumpkin pie playdough!

  8. […] Homemade Playdough = happy, focused 17-month old for 30 min. Hopefully more of that later. And proven safe when eaten.  Compliments of Mel’s Kitchen Cafe… […]

  9. Kerri says:

    Just made three batches of playdough on our rainy day. It was such a hit with the kids! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Alicia says:

    You just saved our boring Saturday afternoon. Thanks a bunch!

  11. Maura Causey says:

    Thanks again for the blog post. Much obliged.

  12. Diana says:

    Great playdough recipe. The colors are amazing! Looks so tasty, too bad it’s not 🙂

  13. Jessica says:

    This is the winning playdough recipe at our house! We’ve made it multiple times. I love knowing that no weird chemicals are in it, just in case someone decides to have a bite! (Why do kids do that?! Hahaha!) It keeps for a long time too just in a sealed plastic bag, no refridgeration required! I love this playdough so much that I made a triple batch (I thought my arms were going to fall off when I was stirring!) and donated it to the nursery kids at our church. Thanks, Mel!

  14. Jill says:

    This is the same recipe as the one I use. I love it. I already have enough problems with kids licking the play dough, so the Kool-aid idea doesn’t seem like one I’ll try. It does sound yummy-smelling, though. I like to make a double batch and leave the food coloring out. Then I separate it into several chunks and add the food coloring during the kneading process so I can get different colors out of one batch. My kids LOVE adding the food coloring and kneading it until it’s all mixed in. It takes more time that way and the kids end up with multi-colored fingers, but it keeps them busy for quite a while.

  15. Jill says:

    Thank you, Melanie! You have saved more dinners in my home than you know and this playdough recipe is fabulous. It’s similar to one I’ve used forever, but there are a few differences that seem to make THE difference. And it’s crazy quick to make. Thanks!

  16. I know I’m late to the game 🙂 But as another mom of four, 6 and under (although only 1 is a boy – but he sure can be smelly!), I can totally appreciate play-dough!!!!!!! It is one of the very few things that will keep all four of my kids quiet and entertained while I try to get something done. While I seem to have an endless supply of the “real” stuff (thanks to well meaning friends and family at birthdays and holidays, and the fact I only let each child open ONE container at a time), we also make the homemade kind every now and then for something different. We like to make it with kool-aid, it smells wonderful!!!!

  17. Kayli says:

    Yes, but WHY break up impromptu wrestling matches?

  18. Norah B says:

    Brilliant. I haven’t been too successful in making playdough at home but I’m up to trying this recipe. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Katie Russell says:

    Have you ever tried the receip for peanut butter playdough. I know I have it around somewhere in my house. It good because the kids can eat it too!

  20. Nanci says:

    I was glad to see your bathroom post because I was going to ask. I have four boys too. I have never made playdough, but we’ll be trying this one. Thanks always for the great recipes. You are the reason dinner happens in my house.

  21. Marianne says:

    Teenagers like play dough too! I make it for my Sunday school class. It’s also a very handy thing to know when you play those Cranium games and you find out the dough is dry when you go to play.

    You can buy the enzyme spray for pet odors (MUST have enzyme to work) for the bathroom. The bathroom odor comes from the fact that grout and caulk absorb the pee smell. The enzyme stuff has a pleasant smell and you can let it soak into the offending area and do its thing!

  22. Angela says:

    I used to teach preschool and have made my fair share of playdough as well. I always added a packet of kool-aid. It added the color and a fun smell!

  23. Marissa says:

    Love the playdough recipe! It’s a lifesaver! And as far as the bathroom stuff goes–every “cafe” has at least one–nothing wrong with sharing sanitizing secrets!

  24. Lauren says:

    Oh, I just noticed your comment on that. Never mind! PS My boys always sit for #1 at our house and other people’s, it was a rule we established from day one of potty-training. So tell your boys that they aren’t the only ones out there (my oldest is almost 10 and he doesn’t even mind).

  25. Lauren says:

    Hi Melanie, Hey I was wondering if you might e-mail me that recipe for how to make the bathrooms smell un-boyish. I’ve got 3 boys and one girl, and between the boys and all their friends I can’t quite seem to get that one down. Thanks!

  26. Veronica says:

    Cool! How long does this last?

  27. Debbie says:

    My recipe is basically the same and I use baby oil instead of regular oil to give it a nice smell.

  28. Keri says:

    You really do need to share your tips for the bathroom. 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Ok, everyone, I have to admit, I had no idea my secret to unboyish bathrooms would be as popular, if not more, than the actual playdough recipe. But listen, I totally get it. So here’s what I do…first, I’ve started having my six-year old clean the toilets with me. It doesn’t really help me, if you know what I mean, but it sure improves his aim because he thinks the cleaning process is nasty. And it is. Secondly, (and I hope we aren’t getting too personal here), if I “catch” one of the boys wreaking havoc on a clean bathroom due to bad aim, silliness, or poor judgment, they have to start sitting to go #1. And they hate that because apparently, it is very unmanly. And thirdly, I deep-clean my toilets/bathrooms only every week-ish, but before bed, every night, I run a clorox disinfecting wipe over each and every one of my toilets (I only have two that the boys use, so it’s easy). Compulsive? Maybe. But it seriously has revolutionized the way my bathrooms smell.

      Love ya! Thanks for following along through the bathroom talk. You guys are the best. What should we talk about next? How often one should shave their legs in order to not be completely barbaric? Actually, we’d better just stop now and go back to making playdough.

      Peace out.

  29. lucy says:

    As a mom of 3 boys, I, too, would like to know how to keep the bathroom smelling un-boylike! 🙂 I think it deserves a post for sure!

  30. Amanda says:

    We make homemade play-doh, too. One i started making the homemade kind, that’s the only kind that my boys find “acceptable”now. I can’t blame them. It’s softer and whenyou play with it right off the stove, it’s nice and warm.

  31. Ashlie says:

    I think you may have come up with the most perfect how-to pictures! Small! I love love love that. Too often the how-to pictures are big and it just takes forever to get to the bottom of a recipe that has all the full-size pictures. Especially the ones that show 2 pictures on how to bring water to a boil. You have mastered the art of the how-to and I am loving it! Thank you:)

  32. Julie says:

    Yes, you can’t tease those of us with little boys about a trick for keeping the bathrooms unsmelly and not share!!
    Can’t wait to make this for my playdough-loving boys!
    Love your blog so so much. Hope your Christmas was joyful and treat-filled!

  33. Claire says:

    Yes please share your fresh bathroom secret!! The house we are living in has a wood floor in the half bath that gets used all the time & it smelled when we moved in & I can NOT get it fresh! I got a steam mop for Christmas & I’m hoping that will help. Our 2 little boys haven’t helped any either…

  34. Candace says:

    You might have to tell me…or email me your trick for making boys bathrooms “unboyish” smelling. I’d love to know! 🙂

    Thanks for the playdough recipe, we love it around here too!

  35. Peggy says:

    Great post! We don’t have any kids, but we have a Cranium game with dried up playdough! This would be perfect to replace it with!

  36. ChrissieK says:

    LOVE IT! Now for the recipe for keeping that boy boy boy bathroom unstinky……….

  37. JJ says:

    OMG thank you so much for sharing this. My mom used to make the stuff for us when we were kids and she forgot how. I guess I could have Googled but I never think about it when I have a moment to myself at the computer. Luckily I subscribe to your blog, and you totally rock! Thanks again!

  38. Brandie says:

    Oh my little one will so love that you posted this today. I have been in search of a good homemade playdough recipe, it is so much nicer than store bought. Thanks for taking the plunge and posting this.

  39. Kristi says:

    Mel – I love the new look of your blog. I put a link to your blog on my blog – it’s usually the first place I go when I’m looking for dinner ideas. I hope you had an awesome Christmas!!

  40. Liz K. says:

    When it is your blog I think you can share whatever the heck you want to! 🙂 My kids love play dough here too. I think the homemade stuff is much softer and easier to play with. I think I will make a batch today and try it out.

    I am all for bathroom secrets! I am on day 2 of potty training my 2 1/2 year old so I have been cleaning and disenfecting my bathrooms like crazy. When I’m are sitting on the bathroom floor waiting for my cute boy to go potty I want my bathroom as clean and unstinky as possible.

  41. Stacy says:

    Ahhh…I’ve literally made a hundred batches of this wonderful playdough. We’ve donated it to preschool, made projects and played with it for hours. What I continue to love about this recipe is that it lasts for months and doesn’t make the mess that the store bought stuff does. Since the last of my babies just started high school, I’ve tucked this recipe away and I’ll make it for my grandbabies someday!

  42. Amanda says:

    We make playdough a lot around here. I have a two year old that will play with it for hours.

    PS. I’d pay money for your secrets of how to de-boy my bathrooms.

  43. Great idea when the kids are home on break for the week. I always put a few drops of my essential oils in the play dough too so it air freshens the house while they play 🙂 PS- like your cute new look.

  44. HollyL says:

    This is great! My girls would love it if I made it for them! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  45. Jenny says:

    I have 3 boys and another little one on the way (we find out if it’s a boy or girl next week). My boys love playdough. We make it with Kool-aid too. It smells so good.

    By the way… how do you get rid of the boy smell in the bathroom?? 🙂

  46. Kim in MD says:

    I made this for my children when they were younger! It is such a fun recipe! I remembering thinking it would never come together, as it looked like such a mess in the pan, but after a minute of kneading it was perfect!

  47. Laura says:

    This is the almost same recipe my mom made for my sister and me when we were kids, which I used as a teenager when I would babysit and then later, as a nursery school teacher!

    Instead of adding food coloring, you can add one package of unsweetened Kool-Aid. It provides the color for the dough, and gives it a matching smell!

    Storing in an airtight container (we always used a 2lb margarine tub) helps the dough stay fresh for over a week.

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