Making Playdough With Natural Dyes

Playing with homemade playdough.

Making playdough at home is not hard. It is not only about cost-saving, but unlike manufactured playdough that contains chemicals, DIY playdough is made with natural ingredients. (Image: Julia Ilina via Dreamstime)

It is a joy to see kids having fun, but it’s even better if you can give your children a means to play that not only makes them happy, but also helps boost their creativity. Making playdough at home rather than buying it in the store allows children’s creativity to bloom.

Making playdough at home is not hard. It is not only about cost-saving, but unlike manufactured playdough that contains chemicals, DIY playdough is made with natural ingredients.

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Making playdough at home

You will need the following ingredients for making playdough:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • natural dye

When in this process you allow your kids to assist is entirely up to you.  Younger children can mix dry ingredients, older kids can stir (supervised) at the stovetop, and adding the dye is fun for everyone.

  1. Combine all ingredients (except food coloring) in a medium-sized saucepan.
  2. Stir over medium heat until smooth. It will go through a clumpy stage – just keep stirring.
  3. Stir continuously until the dough balls (about 1-2 minutes).  Remove from heat.
  4. When the dough is cool enough to handle, knead the dough until smooth.
  5. Form into a ball.
  6. Divide into as many colors as you’d like to make.  A single batch makes a good amount for four colors.
Making playdough at home is fun for everyone.
Younger children can mix dry ingredients, older kids can stir (supervised) at the stovetop, and adding the dye is fun for everyone. (Image: Julia Ilina via Dreamstime)

Making the natural dyes

If you have no experience with creating natural dyes and playdough at home, relax. The process is quite simple and these can be created in a jiffy. In fact, if you show and explain the process to your children, they should be able to master this in no time. You will need a few spoons, bowls, and a small pot of water.

In most cases, you should be able to create various hues by using ingredients from the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets. The basic process involves boiling specific herbs, fruits, and veggies in water and you can decide how deep or light you want the hues to be. To ensure you get the right hue, boil the veggies, roots, or herbs using low heat.

  1. Add several drops of your natural dye to the divided dough. 
  2. Knead the dye into the dough. To protect your countertop, knead over wax paper.  It may stain your hands, so wear plastic or rubber gloves if you have them (you could also put the dough and food coloring inside a ziplock bag and have the kids squish it around inside).
  3. When the dough is a consistent color, roll into balls and set aside.
Five colors of homemade playdough.
In most cases, you should be able to create various hues by using ingredients from the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets. (Image: Yaroslav Melnik via Dreamstime.com)

Some handy color ideas

  • Pink — What can be better than some beets for making pink dye for playdough? You will need to boil a cup of shredded beets in 2 cups of water to get an intense pink hue.
  • Yellow — For shades of yellow, all you need to do is boil some turmeric root in water.
  • Purple — To create a deep or light purple hue, you will need a handful of blueberries. Cover the berries with water in a pan and then simmer for some time. Stop when the water becomes deep pink or purple. You may also use red cabbage to obtain a purple shade However, the drawback is the dye will then have a pungent smell and your kids may not like that.
  • Brown — For various shades of brown, you can make use of coffee beans and used tea leaves or both. However, keep in mind that this dye can be quite deep-hued. So it is better that you use a plastic sheet or cover if your kitchen countertop is white!
  • Blue — To create enticing shades of blue naturally, boil purple cabbage leaves in water. After the water turns deep purple, add some bicarbonate of soda, commonly called baking soda, to it. The mixture will fizz a little but you will get a blue hue easily.

Now that you know how to make playdough at home, your kids are in for tons of sensory play and creativity!

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