*RRR? WTF is that?!? The RRR is the Recipe Round-up & Review (it was too long in the title otherwise)!

I’ve found that play dough is not only a greatly absorptive and creative activity for their little brains (and hands), but that it is greatly calming as well.  Early childhood experty-types agree as well, if you feel the need to justify the mess it makes! Play dough has become one of our favorite activities, either for the kids while I’m busy doing other things, or for all of us to play together.  Play dough is also a great medium for the kids to learn real magic–the art of mashing and smashing or sculpting and smoothing what is in their head and their hearts into something new, concrete and material. 

Over the past week or so, we’ve been testing out various homemade play dough recipes. One I haven’t tried out yet, but may be of interest if you are in a wheat-free household, is a homemade gluten-free recipe.  Here are our results, and be sure to try them yourself (I promise play dough is fun for grown-ups too!):

Traditional Play-dough (requires cooking)

2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity)
optional food coloring*

Directions as seen here.

Ultimately, the biggest problem with this recipe is that it’s not a kid friendly preparation (unless you have older children, or kids that could care less about being kitchen helpers). This is pretty disappointing to my muchkins though. Otherwise, the recipe makes a play dough that is pretty much just like commercial Play-Doh in terms of function and comparatively, it definitely seems to last longer that other homemade versions.

*Some recipes use a package of Kool-aid for coloring and scent.

Peanut Butter Play-dough

1 c peanut butter
3 c powdered sugar
1/3 c honey
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
food coloring optional
Mix together the following

Now, obviously this one isn’t good if you have children with peanut allergies…but if your child is a PB&J addict like the both of mine, peanut butter play-dough is a particular favorite (edible, and quite tasty) and (I should have known this looking at the recipe) a particular messy one.  If you’ve ever had a homemade peanut butter ball (a.k.a buck-eye), you would understand the irresistible appeal this tasty dough.  This particular play dough has actually become a favorite breakfast activity with toast and bananas–and so what if a bit of it gets eaten?!?

There are some problems with this dough though, it is a bit difficult to get perfect–it goes from too sticky to too stiff and crumbly to be workable like regular play-dough quite quickly.  Also, it is very workable by hand to make little sculptures, but not so good to roll out and use with cookie cutters. Its not very elastic, so it stays in whatever shape you place it in initially, including taller structures than the flour-based doughs. Peanut butter play dough can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.  If you refrigerate it, it seems to be more crumbly afterwards.

I’ve also seen another PB play-dough recipe calling for 1 c creamy peanut butter, 1/4 cup honey and 1 c instant nonfat dry milk.  I have not, however, tried the recipe out.

Mr. Rogers Easy Play-dough

1 part water
2 parts flour
food coloring optional
Mix together the following, and then knead until play-dough consistency. If needed, sprinkle in more flour while kneading.

This recipe is super simple, and really the cheapest of them, requiring the least number of ingredients–definitely one that the kids can make quite easily.  It makes a smooth and pliable, but not terribly elastic play dough (though the kids don’t seem to care about that) that rolls out well. The biggest drawbacks are that it dries out quickly, it leaves a bit of a floury residue on the hands and table, and that if you don’t immediately clean up chunks of it,  they get pretty darn stuck and require quite a bit of warm water and scrubbing to clean up.

The recipe can be modified by adding salt or sugar to make salt dough by replacing 1/4-1/5 of the flour with salt; you may need to add additional water as well.  Additionally, salt dough can be baked at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until hard, allowed to air dry and painted. If you add a bit of pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and powdered orange peel, etc, it makes particularly lovely Yule ornaments (great gifts from kids to grandparents!) or with other scents, decorations for the other Sabbats.