Sunday, August 12, 2018

Play dough--the details!

Soft and squishy, bright and colorful--what's not to love about play dough?  Upon entering my classroom, it was one of the first things the children were greeted with each day, and was one of the most popular spots in the room.

collage of play dough images

As I mentioned in another post on play dough, I changed the color of the dough every two weeks, and swapped out a selection of open-ended gadgets and gizmos at the same time.  By that time the dough was becoming a bit too crumbly, the toys needed a good soak and scrub, and the scent I'd added had probably faded quite a lot.

So what about those colors and scents?  When I first started out as a teacher, I was lucky enough to get the best recipe ever for play dough from a co-teacher.  I used the same recipe for 25 years (sometimes I'd make a double batch and freeze half to use at another time--it freezes perfectly!)  But it wasn't until I'd been teaching for a few years that I discovered the joys of Liquid Water Color (beautiful, vibrant colors that you just can't get with food coloring), and the added sensory benefits of scenting the dough.

So here's everything I know and love about a good batch of play dough--enjoy!

The Only Play Dough Recipe You'll Ever Need
With a whisk or spoon, stir the following together in a medium pot:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup salt
2 Tbs. cream of tartar

Add and stir with a whisk or spoon:
2 cups water
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
As much liquid water color as you need to get the desired color
Whatever scent you've chosen (Some ideas are listed below)

Once you've whisked/stirred until there are no more lumps (a minute or two), turn the heat on to medium high.  Stir with a wooden spoon constantly, until the dough begins to form a ball (a few minutes).  It can still be a bit wet and mushy in spots when you dump it out of the pot onto the counter.  Let it cool for a few minutes, and fill that pot with water right away for easier cleaning!  Once the dough is cool enough to handle, knead it/mush it all together, combining any wettish spots with the more cooked parts.  Soon you'll have a gorgeous lump of brightly colored, beautifully scented dough.  You can store it in any airtight container (I usually used a zip top bag or Tupperware-type container.)

Smells and COLORS!
(Make sure there aren't any allergies or sensitivities in your class before you add scents to your dough)

Extracts--from the baking aisle in the grocery store--these go on sale periodically, so stock up!
Peppermint (great with red, green, pink or uncolored dough)
Lemon (yellow--or purple!)
Vanilla (uncolored, brown, black, blue--any color, really!)
Coconut (yellow, tan, turquoise--think beachy colors...)
Almond (uncolored, brown)
Lime (green!)
Orange (orange!)

Kool Aid
You can use Kool Aid to color and scent your dough--but it makes it a little sticky, and in humid weather it can go bad (aka moldy!) quickly, so beware!

Cinnamon (I love this with red or brown dough)
Pumpkin Spice (orange or Thanksgiving)
Italian Seasoning (uncolored, so you can see all the flecks!)

Cocoa Powder
I love to use this to make chocolate scented dough, and it adds a lovely smoothness to the dough, too.  Throw several tablespoons in with the other dry ingredients.  Add lots of black and brown food coloring for a deep chocolate look...

Hopefully you love play dough as much as I do, and use it daily in your classroom.  And if not, you've got no excuses now!  Get going!

Do you have a favorite recipe?  A color and scent combo you couldn't live without?  Post in the comments below!

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