One of the constants in our classroom is play dough. Inexpensive, versatile and therapeutic, children know that they will always find a large ball of it when they come to school.

We begin our days at Woodland Park with what we call “Discovery Time” (e.g., free play, choice time) and for many kids, the play dough table is their daily starting point. Others use the soft, soothing dough as a refuge when play gets too loud or too wild or when their emotions start to overwhelm them. Some “bake” endless trays of play dough cookies and muffins, which they serve to their friends. Some construct buildings, invent monsters, or roll out long snakes. 

Play dough is a comforting tactile experience.

Play dough is a medium for art and architecture.

Play dough is a vehicle for imaginative play. 

We’ve tried a number of different play dough recipes over the years, but none combine the silkiness with the longevity of the one my mother taught me. 

Teacher Tom’s Mom's Very Special Play dough Recipe

This is the recipe for one small batch. We quadruple it for classroom use. 

1-cup flour

1/2-cup salt

2-teaspoons cream of tartar

1-cup water

1-Tablespoon cooking oil

food coloring (optional)

scent (optional, but recommended)

Put everything in a pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. You're looking for the dough to start separating from the sides of the pan (the time this takes depends on how big your batch is). I’ve found that the smoothest results come from stopping when it still seems like it’ll be a little too sticky. Remove and let cool for a bit on wax paper. Add color and knead to distribute color. I always add a scent (e.g., mint, wintergreen, clove, strawberry, etc.) to keep it smelling fresh.