Soft Play Dough Recipe

(3 votes)
15 Comments
7 minutes
November 30, 2022
Carole JonesJump to Recipe

This truly is the best play dough recipe if you are looking for one that is easy to make and stays super soft for months. So many homemade versions are grainy and then dry out in a couple of days. Even my kids prefer this amazing playdough over the store-bought versions as well. Scroll on down to see how easy it is to make homemade play dough, including variations using Kool-Aid, glitter, and scented oils.

The Best Play dough Recipe

Why I Love This Play Dough Recipe

As a mom of six kids, there is an endless need for activities that keep those brains unplugged and happy. Over the years I’ve created a few favorites for them like Rainbow Rice and Foam Dough. However, this play dough recipe continues to be one of their favorites. I made it months ago and it is still silky soft. 

I also love how inexpensive and non-toxic this play dough recipe is. When I make it, I make multiple large batches of it at a time so there’s never an argument about someone not having enough when they are playing. It also makes for a great, simple gift. One year for my son’s preschool class, I made a few big batches of it and packaged it up for him to give as gifts at Christmas time, along with a few cookie cutters. His classmates loved them and so did his teacher!

What is Play Dough

Play dough is a modeling dough children use for arts and crafts projects or just playing with at home. While there are store-bought versions available, the ingredients and recipe are quite simple to make at home. 

When it was first manufactured, it was used as a way to clean wallpaper. Then in the 1950s, the recipe was reworked to create a new educational tool for children. It was first marketed to schools in Cincinnati, Ohio close to where it was made. It became an immediate hit with the students there and was soon produced nationwide.

four balls of easy homemade play dough

Play Dough Recipe Ingredients

This homemade play dough recipe is made with simple ingredients, allowing it to be non-toxic for your kids and very inexpensive for you!

How to Make Play Dough

All you need are a few ingredients and a little bit of heat for the softest play dough recipe.

Time needed: 10 minutes

How to Make Play Dough

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan.

    Use a whisk and mix until the mixture is smooth.

  2. Add the gel food coloring to the mixture.

    If you want more than one color, you can wait to color the dough until after the next step and divide it into smaller portions, but it will be harder to incorporate.

  3. Cook the dough over medium-low heat.

    Switch to a wooden spoon because the dough will get thicker and heavy as it cooks.

  4. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is no longer sticky

    This will add about 2 to 3 more tablespoons of flour to the dough.

  5. Store in an airtight container

    You can use plastic zipper bags or reusable airtight containers.

pink orange green and purple play dough balls

Homemade Play Dough Recipe FAQs

What are the ingredients for play dough?

The ingredients in a play dough recipe vary but most of them use flour, salt, oil, water, gel food coloring, and either alum powder or cream of tartar. Because play dough is mainly used by children, it is important that the ingredients are non-toxic because kids love to put everything in their mouths!

How do you make playdough soft and fluffy?

The key ingredient for making play dough that is soft and fluffy is the alum powder. That addition keeps the dough from being dry and crumbly. It is also important to not add too much flour to the play dough recipe because that will also create a dry and crunchy texture.

What is alum powder?

Alum powder is chemically known as aluminum potassium sulfate. It is easily found in most grocery stores right by all the seasonings. Alum is used in baking powder, as well as in pickling agents to keep the vegetables crisp.  

Why do you use alum in this play dough recipe?

Most playdough recipes call for cream of tartar. You can use cream of tartar if you can’t find alum, but if you want the softest, longest-lasting dough, grab the alum. You can find it in your store’s baking aisle among all the spices and it is that secret ingredient in this homemade play dough recipe. If your store doesn’t have it, you can order it online as well and for me, it is worth it.

Can I substitute cream of tartar for the alum?

Yes, you can substitute cream of tartar for the alum in this play dough recipe but the results will be different. The play dough will not be as soft and it will dry out easier as you use it. It will still be great play dough.

stack of pink, orange, green, and purple homemade play dough recipe

How to store homemade play dough

To store your homemade play dough recipe, all you need is an airtight container. I often toss it all together into a gallon ziplock bag, but if your kids are pickier than mine, you can keep the colors separated into smaller bags or reusable storage containers. I know this is a very easy homemade playdough recipe to whip up, but it still frustrates me when my sweet kiddos don’t put it away properly. I’m sure you have no idea what I’m talking about, right???

How to rehydrate this play dough recipe

With this play dough recipe, you shouldn’t need to rehydrate it. However, if your kids are anything like mine, they will leave it sitting out for hours on end after they are done playing with it. If this happens, you can wet your hands and wipe around the outside of the dough. Once the outside is a bit damp from your hands, knead that little bit of moisture into the play dough before returning it to its container.

Play Dough Recipe Variations

While this homemade play dough is pretty straightforward, that doesn’t mean you can’t create some variations your kids will love.

  • Use Kool-Aid to color the play dough. Simply add one package of Kool-Aid to the dry ingredients before adding the water and skip the gel food coloring. Be cautious however because the Kool-Aid will make the play dough smell fruity, leading to more of it going into mouths. While not toxic to eat, it’s still not something your child should be eating a lot of.
  • Add glitter to the finished play dough. You can knead some into the dough in step four when you are adding the final amount of flour. The glitter will make the play dough recipe a bit more crumbly but still fun for the kids to play with.
  • Add scented oil to the water to create a play dough with a yummy scent. My kids really like when I use orange-scented oils. Like the Kool-Aid variation, this option should be reserved for older children that understand it isn’t good to eat this play dough, even though it smells like you can.
four different colored balls of the best play dough recipe

Easy Playdough Recipe Video

Need a bit of convincing of how easy it is to make this play dough recipe? Watch this short video to see how quickly it comes together!

Looking for More Great Kid’s Activity Ideas?

If this play dough was just what you were looking for, be sure to check out these other activities for your kids. Grab them now before you forget!

Needing more than kid’s activities? Subscribe to My Kitchen Escapades to get new recipes delivered straight to your inbox! You can also stay in touch on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest,  and YouTube for all the latest updates!

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play dough recipe

Soft Play Dough Recipe

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 3 reviews

Honestly, the best playdough recipe out there! You can make multiple batches in just a matter of minutes!

  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 large ball 1x

Ingredients

Scale

1 1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup salt

1 tablespoon alum powder

3/4 cup water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

gel food coloring

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the flour, salt, and alum. Add the water and oil. Whisk until smooth then add enough gel food coloring to get the desired color intensity. 
  2. Cook the mixture over medium low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon.
  3. After it forms a dough, dump that dough onto a floured counter and knead in a bit more flour (2-3 Tb) until it is smooth and no longer sticky. Store in an airtight container.

Notes

If you cannot find alum powder, you can substitute cream of tartar but the dough will not be quite as soft.

  • Author: Carole Jones
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Kids
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 ball
  • Calories: 0
  • Sugar: 0
  • Sodium: 0
  • Fat: 0
  • Saturated Fat: 0
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 0
  • Fiber: 0
  • Protein: 0
  • Cholesterol: 0

Carole Jones

Carole Jones is an Arizona-based cookbook author & food blogger. She's authored The 30 Minute Cooking From Frozen Cookbook and the self-published Take 5: Chicken e-cookbook. For the past 15 years, Carole has shared her culinary adventures cooking and baking for her six brutally honest children here on My Kitchen Escapades. Hot, crusty bread is Carole's love language, but her two adorable grandchildren are a close second. Yes, second. Don't judge.

15 comments

rmholmgren
16 years ago

Hi Carole! Do you think that I could use EVOO if I don’t have vegetable oil??

Carole
16 years ago

I’m sure you could. You will just have expensive play dough 🙂

D Young
12 years ago

You should try it with Kool-Aid packets. It gives the play-doh a yummy smell and fun color too!

Carole
12 years ago

Thanks DYoung for your suggestion! I will definitely give that a try next time I make a batch.

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Marie
4 years ago

Made this over the weekend and it turned out perfect!

Carole
4 years ago

I’m so glad you gave it a try! And thanks for coming back and leaving a review

Jane beennett
4 years ago

So easy and turned out great. I bought a bag of alum on amazon enough to make a lot .

Carole
4 years ago

I’m so glad Jane! Thanks so much for coming back and leaving a review. It helps so much 🙂

Roseanna Page
3 years ago

This really is the best recepie i have come across, and i have tested over 20 in the last 2 years.

i am so chuffed with it.

it leaves no salty residue for little ones to try and lick off their fingers, it does not seem to dry out and it can be formed into smaooth balls and shape no matter the volume of the piece you are working with.

its really great. im so chuffed.

Carole
3 years ago

I’m so glad you love it Roseanna! I’ve been making it for years and it has never lead me astray 🙂

Ally
9 months ago

Hi Carole,

I haven’t really heard of alum powder before.. I presume it’s safe and non-toxic for little ones?

Thanks 🙂

Ally

Carole Jones
9 months ago

Yes it is! You can find it with the spices at the grocery store.

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