5 Sensory Playdough Recipes

It was back in the 1990s when I started working in nurseries that I discovered homemade playdough.  The setting I first worked in created this really sticky stuff, that had virtually no shelf-life and was a bit of a disaster.  An unimpressed volunteer mum turned up one day with a batch she had made which was far superior (its all about the cream of tartar she told me).  It was also a rather fabulous bright pink.  Wow!

Now, playdough is a wonderful thing.  All that squishing strengthens those little fingers and supports the development of fine motor skills, the sheer versatility of the stuff can only nurture creativity and imagination, and where imagination flies language soon follows.  However, if you can elevate this already highly satisfying substance to activate a number of senses at the same time (eg. sight, smell, touch), then the experience is even more impactful on learning (put on some music and you’ve created a truly multi-sensory experience).

Its also really fun to make!

So here are a handful of recipes that do just that…


Basic Playdough Recipe:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil (I prefer olive oil)
  • 1 cup water
  • Food colouring

I put it all in a pan, then put over a low heat stirring continuously.  Once the dough comes together, I tip out onto a plate, leave a moment to cool (whilst putting some warm soapy water in the pan – makes it so much easier to clean if its had a soak).  Finally, I give it a good knead, and its ready to go.  Freshly made and warm from the pan is the absolute best.

Now, we had a number of attempts at making playdough with different food colouring, only to be very disappointed by the pale, insipid colours that were produced (even when the whole bottle went in).  Then I discovered the Wilton Icing Colour Gels and I haven’t looked back.  The colours are so much more vibrant, and a little goes a long way (I find using an old medicine pipette useful for drawing out the right amount of gels).  And they are great for all other sorts of activities, like dying pasta and rice (and baking of course, if you have the talent I sadly lack).


And now to the fun part…


Starry Night Playdough

Add black food colouring and silver glitter.  I used approx 20ml of the food colouring, and around 1 tablespoon of glitter to get a satisfying effect.  However you could go the whole hog and put the lot in for a really dramatic result!





Strawberries and Cream Playdough

Add red food colouring and vanilla essence.  I used approx 10ml of food coluring, and 30ml of Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract.  Again, you can adjust to your preference.  However, a quick warning about adding smells – don’t be tempted to add loads of vanilla essence if it isn’t a strong smell while you make the playdough up.  The aroma is released as the playdough is worked during play, so too much can be over-powering (headaches ahoy!)  Play it on the safe side to begin with, as you can always add more after the dough is made by making a well and really working it in.


Lavender Playdough

Add 1 ml of violet food colouring, and 4 drops of lavender essential oil to your cooking oil.  I use Tisserand Lavender Essential Oil. The Wilton violet gel is really effective, so a very small amount creates a very strong colour.  And again, take it slow with the essential oil, you don’t want the smell to be too over-powering.  Its advised to avoid aromatherapy on very young children, but I’ve found a few drops, in some olive oil, in the dough, is absolutely fine and results in a really pleasing aroma while my daughter plays.  However, if you have any concerns, skip this one a try an alternative recipe.


Peppermint Playdough

Infuse 2 peppermint teabags in your cup of water before making up the playdough, and add 1 ml of leaf green food colouring.  The resulting smell is subtle, but a great alternative to other ways of adding scent.





Pink Party Playdough

Add 1 ml of pink food colouring, 1 tablespoon of pink glitter, and some small confetti table sparkles. Use the smallest sprinkles you can find to get some extra sparkle and an interesting texture.




I hope you have fun with all of these recipes, my daughter and I have had hours of enjoyment from these.

Thanks for dropping by, Amy