Fun and Easy Tactile Craft: Make Your Own Play Dough

We are currently doing a patch trial on Peanut where we patch his “good” eye from about 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day.  This is challenging for all of us:  Peanut isn’t pleased about wearing the patch or trying to get by with the vision provided by his “bad” eye, and Efrit and I are scrambling to find ways to keep him distracted so we don’t have to replace the patch every five minutes (patches are expensive!).  I’m finding that tactile activities work best to keep him distracted:  on Friday, we set him to finger-painting with big glops of finger-paint on newspaper.  Today, we made our own play dough.

This is a shockingly easy craft that’s made with items you likely already have around your house.  You will need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt (we ran out of table salt, so ended up using a mixture of table salt and kosher salt.  It doesn’t seem to have made any difference.)
  • 1 cup water
  • food coloring
  • a bowl to mix the dough in
  • a container with a lid to store the dough in (think Tupperware)
Peanut mixes his blue play dough.

Peanut mixes his blue play dough.

I started out by putting a large plastic bowl on the table in front of each of my children.  I then measured a cup of salt for each of them and let them pour the salt into their bowls; we repeated this with the flour.  I had them put their hands in these dry ingredients to mix them together.  They could feel the difference between the soft flour and the prickly salt.

Next, I asked them what colors they wanted their play dough to be.  Peanut picked blue and Sprout picked pink.  I added food coloring to the cup of water, stirred it, then poured the colored water into their bowls.  The kids then got to stick their hands into the bowls and mix the play dough.  They got to feel the wet of the colored water, and they got to feel how the texture of the dough changed as they mixed it.  I did end up helping both of them get all of the salt and flour into the dough–it’s pretty sticky until everything’s mixed together.

Peanut and Sprout make the pieces for their roly-poly men.

Peanut and Sprout make the pieces for their roly-poly men.

The kids were excited to make their play dough, and they were even more excited to play with it.  We started out by making roly-poly men.  I then pulled out cookie cutters and child-sized rolling pins and let them roll the dough out and make “cookies.”  This activity easily kept them engaged for an hour, and they asked to play with it again later in the day and played for another hour.  Best of all?  While making and playing with his play dough, Peanut forgot to complain about the patch.

You will want to store your play dough in a container with a lid when you’re done playing with it.  The instructions I have say to remove any dry pieces and throw them away, then store the play dough in the air-tight container.  If I remember right from childhood, the play dough should keep for 2-3 weeks easily, maybe longer.  Happy playing!

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