When you have toddlers and preschoolers, play dough is often a playtime staple and offers some good tactile and sensory play for children. Even my 3rd grader still loves to play with play dough.
Sure, it only costs a couple dollars to buy a 3-pack of those little tubs, but you can make 3 times as much play dough for a fraction of the cost with a few pantry items that you probably already have.
This is my all-time favorite play dough recipe because I have all the ingredients and it smells nice.
How to make your own play dough
Directions: Boil water, stir in salt. Add Kool-aid & mix. Add cooking oil & flour and stir with spoon until mixed. Knead dough to finish mixing dough to get a consistent color. This dough will have a pleasant scent.
I like to save plastic containers from lunch meat to store our homemade play dough it. It seals nicely and keeps air out (air makes it dry out.)
Thrifty Play Dough Tools and Toys
Now that you have made your kids a batch or two of play dough, let’s talk about what they will use to play with it.
You don’t need expensive toys designed for play dough. We have been given some as gifts over the years and in my experience those things are often a pain to clean up and play dough gets stuck in all kinds of spots. I rarely let my children get those kits out because I know I will have to clean them up and sometimes they don’t work nearly as easily as the box makes it look.
What does work easily is letting them play with a variety of items from your kitchen drawers and cupboards. They can make so many textures with them and cut out shapes. Plus, let me be honest, cleaning up kitchen tools is so much easier.
Here are a variety of items I got out for my son to play with the other day and they include:
- Rolling Pin
- Muffin Tin
- Melon Baller
- Cookie Cutters (I switch them up each time)
- French Fry Cutter
- Meat Tenderizer
Just look around your kitchen and see what you can find. It won’t cost you anything to provide them with these supplies.
Making play dough with your child can be a fun activity as well, then they also get to play with it afterwards. I am not sure how long play dough technically “keeps” but ours has lasted months before I have had to toss it because it started to dry out.
If you are looking for other play dough recipes besides the Kool-Aid one above, check out these three:
- Basic Play Dough Recipe
- Coffee Play Dough (good way to re-use used coffee grounds)
- All Natural Play Clay
- How to Make Moon Dough and Model Magic Clay
My son also likes to get out his play dinosaurs and make fossils and tracks in it. We have used cars and trucks to run across the play dough as well.
Play dough also makes thrifty gifts for kids. My children have made it as gifts for friends and we have made it as a birthday party favor. This year, my son’s preschool teacher gave the kids each a gift of homemade play dough with a cookie cutter and a book.