Our Favorite Playdough

I love making our own play dough.  Beyond loving the ability to control the ingredients, it’s just a fun thing to do.  The little ones learn lots of great practical skills.  Although, we have done no cook recipes, I greatly prefer cooked play dough.  This is primarily for two reasons the shelf life it offers and I like to make my own coloring so I'm cooking anyway.  The recipe that I use is a variation of a recipe I first tried from the artful parent.   My proportions are just a little bit different and I often use natural food dyes rather than store bought.

Here is how I make natural play dough colors…

Full disclosure: When I first started making my own dyes, I didn't find it easy at all.  This recipe took a good bit of trail and error and more than once I gave up and just used regular old food dye.  You will find zero judgment here if you make that choice.  Simply skip down to the ingredients list and add your store bought food dye to the water used in the recipe. But, I will say once I realized that I could use peels from my juicer and food stuffs in abundance the process became fun, affordable and easy.   
An important thing to remember is that the flour you add to your mix will significantly lighten the color so you want to create fairly saturated color in your water solutions.  *This is true regardless of your choice to use natural produce based dye or store bought food dye.  The process is really as simple as boiling water.  The basic formula is boil down a pot of water with your selection fruits and vegetables of choice.  I typically start with about 4-6 cups of boiling water.  I bring that water to a rolling boil, then drop in 1-3 cups of produce that will yield the color desired.  I allow that to boil for about 10 minutes.  This is a hugely important step to try to stave off any bacteria that might cause molding to occur.  Then I allow the pot to simmer for 30 minutes.  Finally, I run the mix through a filtered food strainer and boom colored water. Here is a list of some of my favorite produce to use for produce based water dyes:
  • Green: Kale, broccoli, or asparagus
  • Pink: Beets … nothing better than beets!
  • Purple: Purple Cabbage 
  • Blue: Purple cabbage plus 1-5 tablespoons of baking soda
  • Orange: Carrots (I make carrot juice frequently, I use the pulp I collect from the back of my juicer)
  • Yellow:  Orange and Lemon peels and pulp (I also save these from my compost pile when I juice)

*I typically use our non-toxic paints to create brown, red, and black.  When creating these colors I just haven’t found a reasonable/affordable produce based color solution.  If you have one I’d love to hear it! Be sure to leave me a comment! 

  • 2 ½ Cups of Dyed water
  • 2 ½ Cups of flour
  • 1 ¼ Cup of Salt
  • 2 Table Spoons of Cream of tartar
  • 5 Table Spoons of Vegetable Oil

Warm the dyed water on medium low.  If you have just made the coloring be sure that it is well below boiling.  It should be warm but not hot.  Leaving the pot on medium-low add the salt and cream of tarter. Whisk until blended.  Once the mixture is blended add oil.  Finally, begin adding your flour 1 cup at a time. I use my whisk to blend in the first cup of flour into the solution then switch to a wooden spoon when I add the remaining cup and a half of flour.  The play dough should start pulling away from the pot as you stir the final bit of flour in.  Dump the play dough into a large bowl and knead after allowing to cool. The dough should still be warm to the touch when you begin kneading.   As you are kneading your dough it’s a great time to add any essential oils you might like.  I tend to not use essential oils in play dough that smell like food … because frankly I don’t want them tempted (any more than usual) to eat the play dough. 


  1. That's so cool that you dyed them using foods! I've done that with Easter eggs, but not play dough. How long does this dough stay fresh?

    1. Thanks, Chrystal! I keep ours in air tight glass containers and have never had a batch turn. It's also really resilient. We have left it out accidentally over night.& been able to knead it back into a nice playable consistency. I typically find myself needing to make a new batch every 2 - 3 months.

  2. My daughter would have a blast playing with this for sure :)

  3. Update: We have now hit the 6 moth mark and a batch :)


The Wasting Nothing Philosophy

Playing, cooking, reading, exploring, loving, laughing, and making a mess with your little one is NEVER a waste of time! It is priority one! It's not just about getting to know your little one. It's about letting your little one get to know you!