Sensory Playdough

by Deb on February 7, 2010

This is a great ongoing activity – first you get to make it, then you get to play with it.  I know people whose playdough lasts for months.  Mine doesn’t, I always feel a bit of a failure as a SAHM  because my playdough is sticky or dry, but I’ve got a new recipe now that seems to be working well 😀

Making it:

I split this into two batches and each girl has a bowl.  They are very good at measuring and pouring things in and mixing, and it’s quicker and easier than most foods.  It makes it easy to make two different colours, smells and textures and keeps them both occupied!


  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 4 tbs Cream of Tartar (tartaric acid)
  • 3 tbs cooking oil
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 cups boiling water


  • food colouring
  • essential / eucalyptus / tea tree oil
  • oats / rice / dry pasta for texture


Put the flour, cream of tartar and oil in a bowl, add some essential oil if you want it to smell.  Tea tree or eucalyptus oil are also anti-bacterial, they can help if you are making it for a playgroup or a child who likes to eat the dough.  Although I once made a batch with pure eucalyptus oil that was so strong your eyes would water just walking into the room and big girl still ate it.  If you are adding some texture, put it the bowl now.

Measure the salt into a mixing jug, then add the boiling water and stir to dissolve as much salt as you can.  You probably won’t be able to dissolve all of it unless you have lovely fine cooking salt.  Add the food colouring to the water.

Slowly pour the water into the flour mixture, mixing all the time.  Keep scraping the sides of the bowl down to make sure it’s all mixed and remember to get all the extra salt.  Keep mixing until you get a soft dough consistency.  If it still stays sticky, sprinkle in a bit more flour and knead it through until you can keep your hands clean.

Playing with it:

My childless relatives love playdough because it makes it easy for them to buy presents for my kids.  Some good quality rollers, cutters and other fun things and we’re happy.  At the same time, you can play with so little.  Plastic cutlery is nice and safe and nuts, twigs and grass make great textures. You can use it for modelling, do interesting things to it when it’s flat, or use cutters to make shapes.  Even babies can squeeze it between their fingers and feel it, big girl used to cut out people then make little beds for them and put them to bed.  When you’re finished, just put it in an airtight container in the fridge until next time.

To extend it a bit you can make sensory playdough, so they can compare the different looks, smell and feel.

The yellow playdough has crushed pasta, the pink has rosemary essential oil.


  • Different colours
  • Dark and light
  • Salt crystals can make it shinier.
  • Try different colouring agents such as cocoa, cordial, beetroot juice, …


  • Essential oils
  • Vanilla
  • Powdered spices like curry
  • Dettol or soaps


  • Crush up some dry pasta.
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Fine sand


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

I like Homemade Playdough January 25, 2011 at 7:30 am

I have made lots of homemade playdough, but the last several tips are something new even for me!


Cynthia September 10, 2011 at 3:15 am

I tried this recipe. It worked out great thank you!!! I have a question I bought the eucalyptus oil and lavender oil for smell but I’m afraid to put it in the play-doh because it says do not ingest. I work with pre-k children ranging from 3-5 years old. I don’t want to harm them but I like the idea of the anti-bacterial benefit. I also found out that tea tree oil keeps away lice.


Deb September 10, 2011 at 9:45 am

Glad it worked 🙂 My big girl did used to eat the eucalyptus dough but obviously it wasn’t enough to hurt her. That was when she was two, I’m not sure when she grew out of it because I actually gave up on playdough because she just ate it! I think by the time she was 3 she was ok.

We’ve been using tea tree oil for lice with mixed results. The little girl and I are ok, big girl keeps getting them. I think her hair is just so thick it doesn’t get in there properly and she’s constantly surrounded by them.


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