Shows 3 homemade play dough made in 3 different ways with text "Gel Food Color", "Crayon", and "Liquid Food Color"
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Day 2: Toddler Activity Home Made Play Dough

Play dough has been on my to-make list for quite awhile now. However, when Barnaby was around 17 months, we attended a wedding and one of my mommy friend whipped out some play dough for all the kids while we waited for food. Her kids happily played with the dough while mine just looked at it. Total disinterest. Since then I lost all interest to make play dough.

A few months later, everyone got a bag of play dough from school. I pulled it out for him one day and he actually “kind of” played with it. “Kind of” meant tearing the play dough into pieces and throwing each piece into the trash can, one at a time. Obviously the play dough didn’t survive two days.

Another few months…I decided that given the current situation I am willing to make some play dough even if it meant they were going right into the trash. If the fun was in tossing the dough, why not!

I ended up trying three different ways to dye the play dough:
1). Melted crayons
2). Gel Food coloring (i used this)
3). Concentrated Gel Food Coloring (i used this)

I thought the color for the melted crayon one would come out more vibrant, but the food coloring batch actually came out brighter, but it required a good amount of the food coloring. However, if I used more crayons I think the crayon batch would be brighter as well!

In terms of the texture of the play doughs, I couldn’t tell the difference. The crayon batch had a slight wax-crayon smell initially. However, in the days following I no longer noticed the smell. Nevertheless, because my toddler still tries to “taste” the play dough (when unsupervised), I definitely prefer the food coloring batch!


  • 3/4 Cup AP Flour
  • 1/2T Cream of Tartar
  • 6T Salt
  • 1/2T Vegetable Oil
  • Crayons (paper removed) or food coloring.
  • 1 Cup Water

HOW TO MAKE Homemade Play Dough

Mix flour, cream of Tartar, and salt together in a mixing bowl.
(I had my toddler help mix, but supervision required at ALL times)

Crayon Version:

  1. Break crayon into small pieces with your hand and add it to a pot with oil. For this batch I doubled the recipe and used 1 red crayon + 1 salmon crayon.
  2. Heat the pot over medium flame and swirl to melt the crayon pieces
  3. Add 1 cup of water to the melted crayons. At this point the crayon will seize up due to the temperature change and turn into waxy pieces (this may depend on the brand of crayon you use as well)
  4. Continue heating the mixture until the crayon turns soupy again.
  1. Add dry mixture to the pot.
  2. Mix mix mix! Make sure to incorporate everything as well as you can. I actually don’t recommend using a metal spoon as I did in this photo because it was hard to mix. A wooden spatula works better.
  3. Remove dough and allow to cool on baking pan.
  4. Once play dough is cool enough to handle, knead it together with your hands. Note how the dough is a light salmon hue even though the melted crayon in the pot looked a lot darker!

Liquid Food Coloring Version:

  1. Add food coloring, water, and oil to the pot and heat the mixture (doesn’t have to be boiling). I used 10 drops of liquid blue food coloring
  2. Turn off heat and add flour+salt+cream of Tartar mixture.
  3. Mix well
  4. Transfer dough to baking pan and knead with your hands.

Gel Food Coloring Version:

Same steps as liquid food coloring, except add 1/2 tsp gel food coloring of choice.

Shows 3 balls of play dough made 3 different ways: food coloring, gel food coloring, and crayons

Comparison of the three play-doughs. As mentioned before, I personally prefer the food coloring batches because my toddler will still try to “taste” the play dough.

Also note how much more vibrant the red gel coloring batch came out compared to the “red” crayon batch. Nevertheless, if I hadn’t doubled the recipe for the crayon batch, I think it would have turned out brighter.

Cut cut and chop chop!

After showing Barnaby how to roll the play dough and press cookie and carrot cutter shapes on them, he was actually able to enjoy them by himself! It gave me enough time (~20-30 minutes )to prep a quick meal in peace. He was upset when we had to take it away for dinner and would randomly ask for it throughout the next day. Winner!

Home-Made Play Dough

Print Recipe
How to make play dough at home with pantry basics
Keyword things to make for toddler
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Author minminutes


  • mixing bowl
  • wooden spatula
  • pot
  • place to knead dough (i used a large baking pan)


  • 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Cream of Tartar
  • 6 Tablespoon Salt
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Oil (I used Canola oil)
  • 1 Cup Water
  • crayons* (desired color, paper removed, broken into small pieces)
  • Food Coloring (desired color)


Crayon Play Dough

  • Mix dry ingredients (flour, cream of tartar, and salt) together in a mixing bowl
  • Heat oil and crayon pieces in pot until crayon is completely melted
  • Heat oil and crayon pieces in pot until crayon is completely melted
  • Add 1 Cup water to the pot and continue heating until crayons are liquid
  • Add dry ingredients to the pot and mix until combined
  • Remove dough from pot and place on pan until cool enough to touch
  • Knead with hands to until soft, pliable dough forms

Food Coloring Play Dough

  • Mix dry ingredients (flour, cream of tartar, and salt) together in a mixing bowl
  • Mix food color**, oil, and water to a pot and heat until hot (doesn't have to be boiling)
  • Add dry ingredients to the pot and mix until combined
  • Remove dough from pot and place on pan until cool enough to touch
  • Knead with hands until soft, pliable dough forms


Recipe adapted from
*I used 2 pieces of crayons for a DOUBLE batch of the recipe, and the dough came out pastel colored. Would probably use 2 crayons for regular batch of recipe if looking for more vibrant colors
**I used 10 drops of liquid food coloring to get the vibrant blue hue and 1/2 tsp of gel food coloring to get the vibrant red hue.

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