How To Make Playdough From Scratch

June 14, 2021


how to make playdough from scratch

When it comes to kids’ activities, playdough has always been a firm favourite – what’s not to love about playdough? It’s fun and engaging, good for fine motor skills and can keep kids occupied for hours…well, a long time anyway!

My Mum always made playdough for us at home so it was a no-brainer for me to make playdough from scratch when my kids reached the right age for it.

Sure, you can buy the colourful, premade Play-Doh that comes in little tubs, but making playdough at home is quick, cheap and easy, so we’ve always made it ourselves from scratch.

What’s more, the process of making playdough is actually quite fun and you can get the kids involved in the process which becomes a whole other activity in itself!

There are quite a few different ways to make playdough. I think we’ve tried a lot of them over the years. But, we always come back to the traditional methods I’m going to share with you here.

My mum always made our playdough in a saucepan on the stove so, to me, that’s the traditional way to make playdough from scratch. And it works every time!

The dough is never too sticky or too dry and crumbly, it just works! So I’m going to share this traditional, stovetop playdough making method with you here.

But, I’m also going to share the boiling water playdough method here too because frankly, it’s a bit easier and it works just as well if not better than the stove-top method.

It cuts out the need for using the stove which can make it a bit more kid friendly if your kids are helping to make it – it still uses boiling water though so take care.

How To Make Playdough On The Stove

This playdough recipe uses simple ingredients you probably already have at home with the possible exception of Cream of Tartar. If you don’t have cream of tartar you can buy some at the supermarket – it’s usually in the aisle with baking ingredients along with products such as baking powder and citric acid.

If you don’t have any and don’t have the opportunity to buy any soon you can either check out other playdough recipes that don’t use cream of tartar or you could simply leave it out of this recipe – it won’t turn out as well though.

Cream of tartar not only makes the playdough soft, it also helps it to last longer. If you leave it out, your playdough will still work but it could be a bit dry and crumbly and won’t last as long as the full recipe.  

Here’s the ingredients you need to make playdough from scratch:

ingredients to make homemade playdough

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ cup of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cream of tartar
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Few drops of food colouring
  • 1 cup plain flour

Add water and salt to a saucepan.

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Add the cream of tartar.

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Add the oil.

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Add a few drops of your chosen food colouring. A lot of other methods to make playdough suggest adding the food colouring to the dough once it has already been formed. That way you can separate the mixture into a few piles of dough before colouring and therefore make multiple colours at once.

I’ve always found that the dough takes on the colour much better if you add it at this stage of the process, with the oil, before cooking. Sure, it means you’ll only get playdough in one colour, but it works out better this way. Also you might notice that the quantities used here are quite small.

This is mainly because I’d prefer to make a relatively small batch of each colour and just make multiple batches if I want different colours. 

how to prepare playdough at home

Put your saucepan on the stove over low-medium heat and stir gently until the salt has dissolved. 

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Once the grittiness of the salt has reduced, add your flour and stir it through.

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Very quickly your playdough should start to come together. At this point remove it from the heat.

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Off the heat, give it a good vigorous stirring until you’ve got a ball of playdough.

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Tip your dough out onto a flat, dry surface. I like to use silicone baking mats for this purpose, they’re great for kneading on as well as a useful non-stick surface for kids to play with their playdough on.

Allow the dough to cool a bit before kneading and working it into a lovely ball of playdough.

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Then your playdough is ready to roll out and play!

playdough recipe using cream of tartar

How To Make Playdough With Hot/Boiling Water

This was a method I came up with in order to avoid having a saucepan to wash! Lazy, I know, but it was also a good recipe to use when the kids were helping to make the playdough.

All we needed was a mixing bowl and a spoon and we all learned to be very careful when the boiling water was added – that was mummy’s turn to stir. 

The boiling water playdough recipe uses exactly the same ingredients as listed above in the stove top method, but rather than cooking the dough on the stove, we add boiling water to the mixture to help the dough come together.

For this method we begin with the flour in a large mixing bowl and then add the salt.

how to make basic playdough

Add the cream of tartar.

making playdough with cream of tartar

Mix the dry ingredients together and make a little well in the centre.

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Add the oil to the well.

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Add your chosen food colouring to the oil.

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Then add the boiling water to the mixture.

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Give it a good, thorough mixing.

best playdough recipe with cream of tartar

This technique tends to result in a slightly stickier dough (initially) than the stovetop method so I like to put some flour down on a baking mat before turning the dough out and giving it a good knead until it comes together to form a lovely ball of playdough.

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Then you’re ready for the best part – the playing!

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Basic Playdough From Scratch Recipe


  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cream of tartar
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Few drops of food colouring
  • 1 cup plain flour

Stovetop Method:

Heat all ingredients, except flour, in a saucepan over low-medium heat. 

Once salt is mostly dissolved, add flour and stir.

Once the mixture starts to clump together like dough (which should happen quite quickly), remove from heat and stir vigorously to combine.

Tip out onto a lightly floured or non stick surface and, once cooled enough to touch, knead until it forms a nice ball of playdough.

Boiling Water Method:

Boil some water in the kettle (enough for 1 cup).

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Make a small well in the centre and add the oil and the food colouring.

Add the boiling water and stir vigorously until combined.

Tip out onto a floured/nonstick surface and, once cooled enough to touch, knead until it forms a nice ball of playdough.

This recipe can be doubled or even tripled if you’re making playdough for a crowd – perfect for playgroups, child care centres, kindergartens or just a large group of kids. However much you make and whichever method you choose, I know you and your kids are going to love playing with this playdough.

I’m featured in Twinkl’s Fun Things to Do to Keep Kids Entertained at Home blog, There you can find other brilliant ideas to keep children occupied whilst indoors by clicking here!

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