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The Best Quick and Easy No-Cook Play Dough Recipe

Homemade Play Dough - Playing with Play Dough

A Homemade Play Dough Recipe for when You Need a lot in a Little Time

Whether it brings joy to your heart or is the bane of your existence, there’s no doubt that play dough is one the best sensory and development materials out there.

Playing with play dough doesn’t just entertain your little ones, though that is a nice perk! It develops their hand-eye coordination and hand strength, which is an important pre-writing step. It also encourages focus and creativity. It’s a great tool for emotional regulation and self-calming. In fact, there are so many pros to play dough that I dedicated an entire post to all of its benefits!

As the Captain of the S.S. Entertainment in your family, it is fully up to you whether you prefer store-bought or homemade dough. For me, I see it more of a cost vs. convenience thing.

And, honestly, my needs in that realm change by the week, day, and even hour. Sometimes my budget doesn’t allow for stocking up on new Play-Doh. Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to do the prepping, making, storing, and cleaning require to make my own doughs. Either way is 1000% totally, completely, unequivocally fine!

When the stars do align and I have all of the supplies, energy, and time needed for homemade play dough, this is my go-to recipe.

Why This Recipe is the Best

Three years ago, I needed a way to provide quiet and engaging entertainment for my oldest child after the birth of her sister. I made a huge batch of play dough, grabbed an easy-to-open storage box, and filled it with all sorts of fun doodads and open-ended craft supplies.

It was an absolute hit, and I knew other moms would want in on this, too! My play dough box business was born, and it took off like a rocket.

I quickly discovered I needed an easy play dough recipe that would allow me to make a lot of dough in a short amount of time. And cooking wouldn’t be an option on that scale.

Fortunately, way back in my days of teaching elementary school science, I had encountered this issue before.

I pulled out my go-to recipe from way-back-when and tested and tweaked it until I felt it was perfect. Now, I get to share it with you!

The Best Homemade Play Dough Recipe

Homemade Play Dough - Playing with Play Dough

Notes on Ingredients & Supplies

  • Flour – Keep an extra 1/2 cup on hand in case the dough feels too sticky after mixing. The amount of moisture in the air can actually really impact the consistency of each batch! (Just like baking!)
  • Table Salt
  • Cream of Tartar – A preservative. This will make the dough have a longer shelf life. It’s perfectly okay to omit it, but be on the lookout for mold after a few days. If you do use it, you dough can last in an airtight container at room temperature for 6+ months!

Sometimes this can be the most expensive ingredient of the process. I’ve always used Walmart’s Great Value brand containers. It’s cheap, easy to find, and you can get two and a half giant rounds of dough from one bottle!

  • Veggie oil – You can definitely substitute out your favorite cooking oil here, especially if your kiddo is allergic to soy. I’ve tried this recipe with coconut, olive, and canola oils with great results!
  • Boiling water – I just pop mine in the microwave for five minutes while I get the dry stuff ready! You will want to use it when it’s ridiculously hot because it dissolves the salt to create the silky texture.
  • Food coloring – My favorite is the Wilton Icing colors. It can take up to an entire bottle to get bright, vivid hues in a big batch. If I’m coloring the whole batch, I will add the food coloring into the water before adding it to the dry ingredients so that everything gets incorporated.

I usually don’t need that much of one color these days, so I usually split the dough into zip up baggies, add some food coloring, and let my girls knead it all together.

Wilton Icing Colors
  • Essential oils – An optional addition. I’ve used extracts before but the alcohol content tends to dry the salt back out. Be careful of the quality and quantity you add, especially for younger kiddos.
  • Stand mixer – or good old fashion arm strength, but I wouldn’t try this recipe with a hand mixer for fear of breaking it when the dough really starts coming together.
  • Wooden spoon or sturdy spatula – This stuff can get sticky! So, you’ll want something that is durable enough to not get broken or have its top pop off while you’re scraping the bowl.

Now that I’ve likely over-complicated things by way too much info, let’s do this!

The Recipe

Homemade Play Dough

  • 8 cups flour
  • 2 cups salt
  • 1/3 cup cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 1/2+ cups water, (boiling)
  • food coloring
  1. Combine dry ingredients in bowl of stand mixer.

  2. Add vegetable oil.

  3. Start mixer at low speed. Use a dough hook if you have one!

  4. Slowly pour boiling water into mixture. Scrape sides of bowl as necessary. Mix until water is incorporated completely.

  5. Adjust speed to medium-high, and let mix for about 5 minutes.

  6. Check the consistency. If dough is too sticky, add more flour about 2 tbsp at a time. If dough is too dry, add more hot water about 2 tsp at a time.

  7. Scrape the bowl onto a clean flat surface, and knead by hand for another minute or two.

  8. Cool dough to a touch-safe degree. Divide you batch as you need, and play away!

  9. Store play dough at room temperature in an air tight container.

Storing DIY Play Dough

Store your dough wrapped in plastic wrap, Ziplock bag, or airtight container.

I highly recommend this plastic wrap from Walmart. It’s thick, durable, comes with an easy-slide cutter, and stretches amazingly. It’s the only kind I use to wrap my dough balls, and I always get compliments on how shiny they look!

Final Thoughts on the Best Quick and Easy No-Cook Play Dough Recipe

That’s it y’all! My go-to recipe for when I need a lot of dough for play and projects! I love how much this recipe makes (and that you can adjust it to what you need without a lot of complicated math), how easy it is, and how I know exactly what my kids are getting into.

Have you tried this recipe or a similar one before? What’s your favorite homemade play dough recipe? Share it below! I’m always on the lookout for new, fun, and festive ones to try!

The Best Quick and Easy No-Cook Play Dough Recipe - Playing with Play Dough

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