Friday, April 15, 2011

Making playdough

Benjamin wanted something fun to do today, and since we're no longer visiting family in California, we couldn't go to the park like he asked. It's a bit chilly (ummm...37 degrees compared to the 70s we left behind) and a little wet and soggy still. So I promised we would make some playdough. The kid loves to help in the kitchen, so I knew he'd have fun making it with me, and he's had fun playing with the commercial stuff in the past. I can't bring myself to actually purchase the containers from the store because I'm a bit of a perfectionist and get really disappointed when the colors are mixed together by toddlers and can't be undone. Homemade dough, however, is extremely inexpensive and doesn't seem to bother me to have to throw it in the trash when it dries out.

1 cup flour (I used unbleached white flour)
1 cup salt (I used Kosher salt)
1/2 tablespoon Cream of Tartar
1TB vegetable oil
1 cup water
food coloring

In a stockpot, place your flour:
Making Playdough - 1 cup flour

Add your salt:
Making Playdough - 1 cup salt

Then, your cream of tartar. This adds elasticity to the dough. It can be skipped, but you'll end up with a more crumbly dough:
Making Playdough - 1/2 TB cream of tartar

Pour in your vegetable oil. I will try substituting baby oil next time as I hear that will keep the playdough for longer since vegetable oil can go rancid:
Making Playdough - 1 TB vegetable oil

I mixed my food coloring into the water before adding to the pot. I found that 8 drops total gave a bright, true color. Turns out, Benjamin is an excellent mixer of colors! I think he's going to take after his Aunt Sarah in art abilities. I have Neon Food/Egg dye drops (McCormick brand), and I added 6 blue drops, and Benjamin insisted in adding 2 purple drops. Those 2 purple drops made the blue much more exact!
Making Playdough - 1 cup water with 8 drops food coloring

Cook this mixture on medium-low heat. You'll need to constantly stir in order to prevent the flour from burning. It shouldn't come to a boil, and the mixture won't get very hot. In a few minutes, it'll become very difficult to stir and the mixture will loose the liquid quality. Dump it out on a piece of wax paper:
Making Playdough - after cooking

When the mixture is cool enough for you to handle (I was able to hold it immediately after dumping because it really doesn't get too hot), knead the dough. This will ensure that all the flour is mixed in and break up any color dye flakes that became concentrated. Afterwards, I patted the dough out flat to cool down faster.
Making Playdough - after kneading

All done! I made pink and blue, upon request from Benjamin. Pink = 6 drops pink + 2 drops purple. Blue = 6 drops blue + 2 drops purple.
Making Playdough - pink and blue

Once the dough is completely cooled, it should be stored in airtight containers. I keep mine in zip top bags with all the air squeezed out.
Making Playdough - store in zippered bags

Benjamin got right down to work making "dinner" with his dough!
Making Playdough - having fun playing
Making Playdough - having fun playing
We had playdough hamburgers and pancakes for supper. :-)

I think this would be a great gift for Easter or birthday favor. Package smaller chunks in the plastic baby food containers or wrapped in cling wrap. Can you think of more novel ways to package it?