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How to Make Playdough {The BEST Recipe}

Posted by  ·  June 20, 2019  ·  Last Updated: June 20, 2019

Let me show you how to make playdough. It is a great kid’s activity and this is seriously the best homemade playdough out there!  It is easy enough for kids to help with, only takes about 10-15 minutes, and gives you comparable results to store-bought playdough. It’s super soft, edible, and even smoother than the real thing.

Mood Sand (or Kinetic sand) is another fun sensory mixture for kids to play with.

how to make homemade playdough

How to Make Playdough

You probably have all the necessary materials on hand in your pantry. You are going to love this simple DIY playdough recipe! If you had fun with this and want more goopy goodness, check out How to make Slime and our other fun recipes below!

Homemade Playdough Recipe

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • food coloring

playdough recipe

How to make homemade playdough step-by-step

When in this process you allow your kids to assist is entirely up to you.  Younger children can mix dry ingredients, older kids can stir (supervised) at the stove top, and adding food coloring is fun for everyone.  My son is under two, so he mainly helps me with the “playing” part.

Please supervise your children and use caution with the stove and hot dough. If you are concerned about the stove, boiling water or hot dough, keep reading – I have a no-cook play dough recipe at the bottom. Either way you will know how to make playdough and it will be oh so soft and silky!

how to make playdough

  1. Combine all ingredients (except food coloring) in a medium-sized saucepan.
  2. Stir over medium heat until smooth. It will go through a clumpy stage – just keep stirring.
  3. Stir continuously until the dough balls (about 1-2 minutes).  Remove from heat.

homemade playdough recipe

  1. When the dough is cool enough to handle, knead the dough until smooth.
  2. Form into a ball.
  3. Divide into as many colors as you’d like to make.  A single batch makes a good amount for four colors.

homemade playdough recipe

  1. Add several drops of food coloring to the divided dough.  Gel food coloring works quite well.  I have not tried liquid food coloring, although some recipes recommend adding that in while the dough is still in the pot so it’s easier to blend.
  2. Knead the food coloring into the dough. To protect your countertop, knead over wax paper.  It may stain your hands, so wear plastic or rubber gloves if you have them (you could also put the dough and food coloring inside a ziplock bag and have the kids squish it around inside).
  3. When the dough is a consistent color, ball and set aside.

homemade playdough

  1. Repeat with the rest of your colors.
  2. Put the dough in separate containers.  Toddler-sized snack containers are a good size, and I have also wrapped the colors individually in wax paper and stored in zip-lock bags.
  3. Store in an air tight container until ready to use.  It will stay soft for several weeks if stored airtight. The playdough can be stored at room temperature for a long time.

Hmm … I feel like I’m forgetting the most important step.  Oh, that’s right – PLAY! Now that you know how to make playdough at home, your kids are in for tons of sensory play and creativity!

For more creative goodness visit Homemade By Jill 

How to make playdough without cooking

Can you make playdough without cooking? Yes, you can! Try:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup salt
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • food coloring

Mix the wet ingredients together and mix the dry ingredients together. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry until you have the correct consistency.

This is a super quick and easy playdough recipe and it works great! We love this one because children can help with the entire process, although it can be a bit messy. Notice this recipe has no cream of tartar – yes, you can make playdough without cream of tartar.

How do you make the best homemade playdough?

Now that you’ve got the base recipe you like best, try making your own custom colors! Store-bought play doh comes in classic blue, yellow, hot pink, and more, but you can make just about any shade your little ones want with food coloring at home!

  • Or how about adding glitter? My daughter loves any reason to break out the glitter, and it works great with playdough. Add about 1 tablespoon of glitter to each batch. If you’ve got little ones who like to taste test and sample your wares, you might want to pass on this special addition…
  • For wonderfully scented playdough, try kneading in a couple of drops of your favorite essential oils – just playing with this is so relaxing. Or what about giving natural food coloring a try?

There are so many variations on how to make playdough out there, so if you have any recommendations, tips, or tricks, please let us know in the comments! How do you make playdough fun for your kids?

Alum versus Cream of Tartar in Playdough

Some recipes will call for alum instead of cream of tartar. While they aren’t the same thing, they can be interchanged in your playdough recipe, since they both help with texture and consistency.

What does cream of tarter do for playdough? Cream of tartar is an acid, like lemon juice, and is used in cooking as a stabilizing agent for items like meringues and whipped cream. While it does help with the consistency…and I bet you won’t miss it. 

More Sensory Fun!

Now that you know how to make playdough, how about giving these other squishy recipes a try? These great ideas will keep kids of all ages playing all day long:

Filed Under: Crafts for kids

Leave a Comment


  1. Thursday, August 9th, 2018
    I love making playdough with my kids! I think it feels so much better than the store bought stuff!

  2. terri cornell
    Sunday, January 7th, 2018
    yes do u use plain flour or self rising sounds great to do with grandkids
  3. Saturday, November 4th, 2017
    Both of my boys will LOVE this!! Can't wait to give it a try!! ❤️❤️❤️
  4. Saturday, November 9th, 2013
    Can you use acrylic paint instead of food colouring?
    • Cindy
      Thursday, October 19th, 2017
      Angelica, I don't think acrylic paints would work. If you try it please let us know the results.
  5. Thursday, April 4th, 2013
    Have you ever considered scenting your playdough? I have done this for my kids, and they love it!
  6. Nicole C.
    Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
    I love this playdough! Thanks for letting it be shared on Pinterest, that's how I found it.
  7. m
    Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
    turned out grat, and really nice to work with. My 4 yr old loves playdough and I like that this dough dosnt dry out as quick. Thanks!
  8. Friday, August 24th, 2012
    I know this post is 2 years old, but it is GREAT!! Just finished making this and it turned out perfect!! I do have a question: Can you use a water-based paint to color the "doh"?? Just wondering....
    • Sunday, August 26th, 2012
      Gosh KB I don't know. If you give it a try please let me know!
  9. slusznis
    Monday, July 23rd, 2012
    what is cream of tarter ? I'm french and don't know what it is but I want so much to try this playdoh...Can y try with baking powder instead of it ? How much ? Thank for you answer.
    • Cindy
      Thursday, October 19th, 2017
      Slusznis, You can make the playdough without cream of tartar. Adding cream of tartar helps the texture by adding volume and elasticity, and it also acts as a preservative.
  10. Amanda Little
    Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
    I made this and didn't have cream of tartar, so I used baking powder instead. It did not turn out so well. It was a little gooey and stuck to our fingers. I opened it again a couple of days later, and it was REALLY gooey and sticky, so I threw it away. My 3 year old was upset! So, I will buy some cream of tartar and try it again :)
  11. Tina Steadman
    Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
    I use to make play dough and we added a pack of unsweetened Kool Aid for color and scent. We added it in step 1.
    • Cindy
      Thursday, October 19th, 2017
      Great idea Tina!
  12. hb
    Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
    This was so super easy. It doesn't smell like the playdoh from the store, but who cares??? My kid can destroy as much playdoh as he likes from now on. Seriously.....20 minutes from start to finish, with interruptions. Thank you for this recipe!!!
  13. BL
    Monday, March 5th, 2012
    fantastic recipe, much better than store bough dough! didn't have anything in the house to color with so put in a dash of red sprinkles while it cooked and my 5 year old says it's "apricot" color!
  14. Tess
    Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
    Thanks for this recipe. Quick and easy to make for my son who (in the middle of Feb) decided he HAD to have a Santa Claus. I will make this all the time for our crafts now :)
  15. KelliL
    Friday, February 10th, 2012
    Thanks so much for this. It was quick and easy to make. And my toddler girls loved it! I did not have cream of tarter so I used baking powder.
  16. Saturday, January 21st, 2012
    THEE BESTTTTTTTT recipe I have ever used! Thanks so much:)
  17. desjmom
    Saturday, October 29th, 2011
    Thank you! Made this today with my 3 kids (8,6, and 4). They loved being able to help make it. The consistancy is so much better that store bought. My daughter had just got a fresh package of name brand stuff at school 2 days ago. When we opened it after making this recipe we realized and ours was softer and more workable and didn't smell like the other stuff did. The kids just love it. So thank you again!
  18. Evi
    Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
    Just an additional tip...Kool-Aid powder (the little packs without the sugar) offer really beautiful extremely bright color that is really inexpensive and smells great too, I use it a lot!
  19. Marina
    Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
    I love the home made play dough recipe. Do you know what i can use to harden it and preserve it, so my kids can display their work for a long time?
    Thank you.
    Marina from Mexico
  20. samar
    Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
    awesome idea...tkx a lot!
  21. Jessica
    Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
    My 4 year old and I just made a batch of this...the only thing is, it doesn't look dry like yours does. It got thick and doughy but never formed a ball and I have it sitting here cooling on the counter but it still looks really sticky and stringy! What did I do wrong?!
  22. carmen a
    Saturday, August 7th, 2010
    i made this with gluten free flour and we love it. the only problem is our's gets a little gooey/sticky on the kids fingers. do you think i should add more flour?? i also used some natural food coloring from "india tree" brand that worked well. pastel colors. thanks i have added this post to my favorites!
  23. Rachel
    Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
    I made this today with the kids I baby sit (7, 5, 3, and 2). For some reason my gel colors really didn't work well. We had to add quite a bit to make them look vibrant. I ended up sending some of them home quite pale and told them to add regular food coloring. They had a blast doing it and learned a little bit about measuring! The best consistency of home made play doh I've ever come across. If I can ever find a smell they all agree on, maybe we will try that.
  24. Saturday, July 10th, 2010
    Way cool - I made this today with the Kool-aid, but I had to add more color because I wanted it vibrant. My kids thought it was the coolest thing and kept saying over and over - mom made this. Like it was a novelty. I have used the alum recipe before and it is very similar in texture. Thanks again for this wonderful recipe and the pictures demonstrating it. I thought I had done it wrong at first when it was really lump and not the consistancy of dough. But once it got thicker it was perfect after a couple of good kneadings.
  25. Thursday, July 1st, 2010
    Just out of curiosity...has anyone ever let this kind of playdough dry? I'm looking for something that the kids can play with but we can have the option of letting it dry into whatever they make. Do you think this will dry like salt dough?
  26. Donnetta
    Thursday, June 24th, 2010
    I made your recipe today and it turned out wonderful! I tossed it in the Kitchen Aid with the dough hook to knead it and my 4 year old added the Kool-Aid for color. Both kids played for 2 hours! It's great texture and looks pretty and smells nice! I've bookmarked it for future use!
  27. Margaret
    Thursday, June 24th, 2010
    This recipe is so EASY and so AWESOME! Thank you for sharing! My 2-yr-old's in love, ha!!
  28. Friday, June 18th, 2010
    As a cake decorator, I always have leftover marshmallow fondant (MMF) that I let my kids play with. MMF is very easy to make with marshmallows, powdered sugar, and shortening. The kids play with it like play dough and it's completely edible!
  29. Carrie
    Thursday, June 17th, 2010
    We made it today, and it turned out great! Thanks for the recipe, Jill!
    My 20 month-old twins ate some and fed some to the dogs, but we had fun playing with the rest!
  30. Mary
    Saturday, June 12th, 2010
    As a preschool teacher, I make play doh weekly for my class...sometime more often if there is a sneeze in it or such...I prefer the kool aid recipie...and it may work for those who can't find cream of tartar or alum.
    2 1/2 cups flour
    1/2 cup salt
    2 small packages of kool aid(unsweetened)

    2 cups boiling water
    3 tbsp oil

    mix together the dry ingredients
    add the wet ones while boiling

    mix with wood spoon, then knead by hand

    when COOL store in an air tight container

    can be frozen and thawed for later play!

    :) good luck!
  31. Layne
    Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
    This one from Cooks.com uses alum instead of cream of tartar. I have used this one and it is great! Maybe those of you who can't find cream of tartar can use this one!!

    1 1/2 c. water
    1/2 c. salt
    2 tbsp. powdered alum
    2 tbsp. cooking oil
    2 1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. flour
    Food coloring

    Mix water, salt and food coloring and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add alum and oil. Pour all at once into flour. Mix and knead with hands. Store in a plastic bag. (If playdough should get hard, add water.)
  32. Erin
    Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
    This is the best homemade recipe for playdough I have ever used. Thanks!
  33. Monday, June 7th, 2010
    We made the playdough Saturday morning....my 7 & 9 year old sons LOVED it! They have gotten it out constantly since. Thanks for the reminder of how fun playdough is!
  34. Sunday, June 6th, 2010
    You can also add a drop of food extract to make it scented. I add a drop or two of vanilla for calming playdough...LOL! Thanks for the recipe Jill. I had lost mine. With kids stuff having so many chemicals in them these days, it is great to have some old fashion recipes for things that you can control. Plus it is a great lesson to teach kids not EVERYTHING comes from the store
  35. Sunday, June 6th, 2010
    Wow I didnt know you could do that. This is perfect as my son keeps eating the playdough.
  36. Fiona
    Saturday, June 5th, 2010
    Hi, I made the cooked playdough recipe with liquid colours (pink, blue, green, fire engine red) this afternoon with my 4 year old. He loved squishing in the colours in the ziplock bag (great suggestion!).
    It turned out just as beautifully as the pictures by Jill. Thank you so much. I am going to make play dough as party treats for the kids for his 5th birthday next month! Great website Skip to my Lou! thank you xox
  37. Friday, June 4th, 2010
    I made the non-cook version and I thought it was good (I chose it because I told my son I'd make him some playdough, and I was too impatient to do the cooked version because I thought it would take too long to cool), but then when I did the cooked version, the product was VASTLY superior, and it didn't even take that long to cool. :)

    Love homemade playdough.
  38. Elizabeth
    Friday, June 4th, 2010
    I am looking at the substitutions for cream of tartar, and the options are vinegar or baking powder. Anyone try using one of these? In Peru there are a lot of things I can't get, so we do lots of substitutions.
  39. Jule
    Friday, June 4th, 2010
    @ Ahuefa
    and in German its Weinstein(back)pulver.

    However, I can't find it at any store here.
    Anybody knows if it can be replaced by backing soda/backing powder??
    Would really love to make this awesome playdough for my little boy.
    Waving from Germany,
  40. Evelien
    Friday, June 4th, 2010
    oops, that was Dutch for "cool colors!"
  41. Evelien
    Friday, June 4th, 2010
    @ Ahuefa

    in Dutch it is called "wijnsteenpoeder", perhaps that's easyer to translate.

    Toffe kleuren zeg!
  42. Elizabeth
    Friday, June 4th, 2010
    This looks great, but could you tell me how it would turn out without cream of tartar? I've been living in Peru for 2 1/2 years, and I still can't find it.
  43. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    This is my favorite play-dough recipe! I love how bright the colors are and how long it stays pliable... or playable. :) I made some in the Fall for our co-op pre-school and it's still good.
  44. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    a Kool-aid envelope (the kind you add sugar to) are great to use instead of dye and gives the playdough a great smell too
  45. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    If you want scented playdough, you can add a package of Kool-Aid when you are cooking it on the stove and then you don't have to add coloring later either. Plus your kids will love smelling it!
  46. Bev
    Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    Ahuefa, cream of tartar is a cooking ingredient that stabilizes eggs and provides acidity to recipes. It can be found in baking aisles where gelatin or agar agar is found. If you have trouble finding it in switzerland, here is a substitution guide: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Dictionary/C/Cream-of-Tartar-5100.aspx.
  47. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    great pictures! i love this. i was going to do playdough tutorial too!!
    btw, i grabbed your button for my blog!!
  48. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    Another great way to dye the playdough is to use KoolAid packets. The kind that requires you to add your own sugar. The colors won't be as vibrant but it makes it smell great!
  49. Staci
    Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    My grandma used to make this and she'd wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it for a long time. If it started to dry out, she'd just had a few drops of water. Great stuff! And because it wasn't toxic or anything, we'd use cookie cutters while we were playing with it without fear of ruining the cutters for future food use.
  50. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    Just poppin' in to say Thanks for being a Top Referrer for May on Hoosier Homemade!
    Thanks much!
  51. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    This is a great recipe! I've usually used the liquid colors and they work fine, but I think the gels seem more vivid. I'm going to try a batch with that this week! Another one of our favorite things to do with play dough is to hide objects in it and they look for them, adds a little more fine motor work.
  52. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    I'm thinking about making this. I've made it before and it comes out great.

    Note: If you ever come across a recipe that requires you NOT to cook it...do NOT make it. I keep ours in a ziploc bag and it went bad. It smelled awful and it got really liquidy. Gross!

    I have never used liquid either, but I do have some. I even bought the neon colors ones lol!! Hopefully it works well. i know the gel gives a bolder color.
  53. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    Thank you for this recipe!!
    I'll try with my nephews!! I think they'll love it!!!
    Have a nice day!
  54. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    Thanks for posting this. The kids were playing with play dough yesterday, but it's getting a bit old and dried out. Now I don't have to go digging for a recipe, it's right here!!!

  55. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    hi there, what a great idea!
    but I don't know what "cream of tarter" is? I couldnt find it on the translator site, so is there an other word for it?

    Greetings from switzerland!
  56. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    I love making play dough! I usually add a packet of unsweetened kook-aid while mixing. It adds great color and smell with a little less mess than food coloring. Have you tried edible playdough? You can google it for the recipe. I think it's made with peanut butter. I haven't tried it but it sounds fun.
  57. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    We love making this! To knead the dough and easily mix in the colors I put it in my Bosch (could also use your Kitchen Aid) with the dough hooks and let it do all the work. :)
  58. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    LOVE IT! I've always wanted to try this but never have! Thx to YOU, now's the time! Super Sophie will be giddy happy! xoxo
  59. Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
    I love homemade playdough. So fun!