The BEST Play Dough Recipe + Family Bible Study (Updated)
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UPDATE: The previous version of this post was missing some measurements. Sorry about that! Both the blog and the printable are now fixed. Enjoy!
The Best Play Dough? YES.
I found the best play dough recipe by accident. I was on Pinterest attempting to follow a play dough recipe I had found and loved enough to make a few times. Making homemade play dough has been a cheap and easy way for me to entertain my little one. It’s one of the few things she will play with by herself (#OnlyChildProblems) and I usually make a big batch for her and just tear off pieces of each color as needed to keep her busy and happy. Unfortunately, the recipe I have always followed required way too much salt to be worthwhile to me so I attempted to scale down the recipe to use no more than 1 cup of salt for the entire batch of play dough —4 colors total. I know, I was being a cheap-o but when you make this stuff every 2 months and you love to cook well-seasoned food, using what seems like half of a ”standard” container of salt in one sitting is just annoying. So it was an exciting accident when I thought I was scaling back the recipe I loved, only to find out that I had added too much flour to one of the batches and that it was even better than the original recipe. Less salt for more play dough — this was a huge win for me.
Play Dough + Jesus Time
I also love to find ways to make Jesus the center of our focus throughout our day. We often will listen to worship music and dance or I’ll catch up on the latest sermon by Pastor Steven Furtick while I’m folding laundry. (#efam #motivationbyelevation) I usually do those things for myself more than for my daughter, and I know that living like a Christian is one of the most effective ways to lead our families to Christ, but I have been looking for ways to show my daughter how to include Jesus in her day, aside from our daily Bible reading and praying at dinner time.
Enter play dough, stage right. I have been thinking about a Bible Study I could do with Zay that would help her remember Jesus when she’s playing with her play dough. My first thought was, “God is the potter and we are the clay.” At Zay‘s age (almost 2-1/2 years old ?), reiterating that she was created on purpose and loved is fundamental! Actually, even some of the teenagers we lead at our church often discuss their confusion with their schools teaching them about evolution, often asking whether God has a purpose for them or if things are just coincidence. So, really, all kids (and sometimes even we adults) need to remember that God made them, “fearfully and wonderfully” (Psam 139:14).
With that, I thought we should have family worship time where we listen to a playlist of songs that are about God making and knowing us, like “Beautiful Things” by Gungor, for example, while making play dough creations. In that setting it’s easy to ask, “Did you know God made you?” to which my little one would reply, “Yes, God made me!” Easy enough, right? If you want some other examples of things you can do, I made a printable with ideas for your family to worship God while having fun with play dough together. It’s good for all ages, really!
Keys to the Perfect Play Dough
The key to keeping a big batch of play dough is to make sure that you store it properly. I keep my huge of play dough balls individually wrapped in plastic and keep all of the wrapped play dough in a large Tupperware container. That keeps the play dough softens the doug and keeps the play dough fresh and pliable. I also add some other toys and plastic utensils to the container for cutting and rolling the play dough.
I promised you the “best” play dough recipe, but it’s not a minimalist recipe. You will need cream of tartar and you will need a stove to “cook” the play dough. The results are worth it for this staple item, especially when it just takes about a half hour to make a full set of play dough every other month (or even less often). We have a designated play dough pot, which doubles as the pot we deep fry foods in. It’s the one we don’t mind getting messy over time, though honestly this recipe is so easy to clean up I think the only reason I even bother to give it its own pot is that I got a new Pioneer Woman pots and pans set as a gift last Christmas and I don’t think play dough is worthy enough to be made in any of them.
Here’s what you need:
- Plain white flour
- Table Salt
- Oil (canola or vegetable)
- Cream of Tartar (The little bottles last me forever because you don’t need too much of it. It deserves a splurge.)
- Gel food coloring (This also lasts me a few months.)
- A pot and a mixing spoon
- Measuring cup and spoons
- A sifter, optional (*helps to keep the play dough lump & white spot free)
- Waxed paper, optional (**with clean-up, and generally great for keeping surfaces and the play dough clean when playing with it)
Here’s how you make it:
Here are my easy instructions to make one large batch of one color of play dough. (It’s also included in my free printable). Measure and add 1 and 1/4 Cup of flour *sifted, 1/4 Cup of salt, and 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar to your pot. Then measure and add 1 and 1/4 Cup of water and 2 teaspoons of oil. At this point I like to stir it a little bit before turning on the heat of the stove to medium heat. After you turn on the stove, add a couple of strong squeezes of the gel food coloring into the pot. Keep stirring, adding more food coloring as desired. The dough will start to thicken into a pancake batter like consistency and then slowly turn more solid until it looks like play dough. Then turn the solid dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Let it cool a bit so that it isn’t too hot for an adult to manipulate and take the time to knead the play dough to work in any food coloring that didn’t fully incorporate and make sure that the entire ball is colored versus a marble effect.
I like to repeat this process with each color and then I rip a small piece of each off so that my daughter can play with them immediately after those pieces have cooled down. I let the rest of the play dough cool after they’re individually wrapped in plastic. That way they won’t dry out. If you don’t like the idea of having plastic wrap on top of the warm play dough, you can still cover it after it cools, just know you may get a white powdery layer over each color.
No Turning Back
I have never bought play dough for my child and I probably never will because making it is so easy! I know that color mixing can be an issue, but if you make big batches and only let your kids use smaller pieces of play dough at a time, they can mesh all the colors together if they want and you can throw their one greyish-green blob out afterwards without losing your whole stash.
So whip up some dough in your home and try to make it a simple, meditative experience. Sometimes I try to make things overly spiritual with my daughter, but all that’s needed is something simple to make an impact — like asking “Does Jesus love you?” and hearing her reply, “Yes,” and then we go on with whatever we were doing. See if during play dough time you can help your kids understand that they were made by God. Don’t forget to download my printable with some ideas for you!
Your turn: What are some simple ways you can focus on Jesus during ordinary things you do with child? ?❤
Hey sis! I’m Imani, the Jesus-loving pastor’s wife & toddler mom who is writing here to help you “be a blessing” in your day-to-day life. Also, I’m probably dancing to Michael Jackson right now.