Play Dough is a nice, quiet toy. It’s cheap, easy to make, and entertains children again and again. It’s also educational! It helps young children develop fine motor control (necessary for holding a pencil in school), eye-hand coordination, and stimulates the brain. Your child can let off some steam as he punches and pokes it. It can provide a science experience, if you talk with him while you make it. Ask him how it looked before and after you cooked it. It provides sensory experiences – as he smells it, touches it, sniffs it, and tastes it.
I like the purchased play doh just fine! It was originally created as a wall-paper cleaner in the 1930s. It wasn’t marketed as a children’s toy until the mid 1950s, and the recipe for it is still a secret. It is labeled non-toxic, yet it does contain a petroleum additive and borax, to prevent mold – and neither of those ingredients are non-toxic. It’s probably harmless enough in small doses, and children do eventually learn not to eat it. I like to keep a container of purchased play doh in my purse. It’s just great for those moments when you need to calm a whiny child. My favorite time to whip it out is when we’re waiting for food at a restaurant. My granddaughter plays with it with the restaurant silverware, and she’s happy until dessert!
Here’s a great recipe for making play dough at home. It’s cheaper than purchased play dough, and is a little softer to manage for younger hands. You can also make it in large quantities, or in a variety of colors. You can substitute different flavorings for the vanilla. I like almond flavoring with brown coloring, or banana flavoring with yellow. The flavorings will encourage your child to taste it, but it isn’t harmful in small amounts. There’s too much salt to let him gobble it down. But creating it with an interesting scent and taste is a good sensory experience for the young child.
Cooked Play Dough:
2 cup flour
1 cup salt
2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
2 cup water
1 TBSP vanilla
2 TBSP vegetable oil
Mix flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a small pot. Add water and oil, stir well, then cook while stirring over medium heat until it is the consistency of thick mashed potatoes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla, and food coloring. Then knead on lightly floured counter until smooth. Children can play with it as soon as it is cool enough for them to touch. Store in an air-tight container or bag.
You can use unsweetened Kool-aide to color the play dough, and then you might skip the vanilla as well. Cherry Kool-Aide works great. The cream of tartar is the most expensive ingredient, but it is the preservative. If you skip it, the play dough will be gooey in a day or two. Try to find it at a warehouse store (Like Sam’s Club) or online, where you can get a larger container at a better price.
Edible Play Dough:
18 oz. jar of creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup non-fat dry milk
Mix all ingredients together. Have child wash hands first! Then he can play with this dough, and eat it. If it is too dry, add a little more honey. If it is too sticky, add more powdered milk. You can keep this in an air-tight container, or have child roll all of it into one-inch balls, roll the balls in shredded coconut or chopped nuts or powdered sugar, and eat! Makes a great, no-bake cookie (if your child isn’t allergic to nuts, of course).
Great Play Dough Toys:
children’s safety scissors
toy doll dishes
Play-Doh: Fun Factory Deluxe Set
Melissa & Doug Shape, Model and Mold
Play-Doh Creativity Center
Play-Doh – Chomposaurus Playset
Top: Barry Thomas
Bottom: Abigail Batchelder