I could be wrong, but I think perhaps play dough is a staple in any household with preschool aged children. In my house we go through phases and with all of the sickness and snow in our lives right now we are right smack dab in the middle of daily play dough fun. My son loves to roll it and chop it into tons of tiny pieces, while my daughter pushes it and squeezes it and tears it into tiny little pieces. I don't know what's up with the little pieces, but it keeps them occupied for good stretches of time and is a great activity for them to do at the kitchen table while I am cooking (I have to keep an eye on the little one to make sure she doesn't put it in her mouth). Also, play dough is a great sensory activity and helps build the fine motor muscles in little hands.
Play dough is also something we have seemed to accumulate over the past two years. At one point I think we had no fewer than 20 cans of play dough in various sizes, colors and textures, but lately they've started becoming crumbly and drying out so instead of buying more, I thought I would try one of the many recipes for play dough that I've come across on Pinterest.
Unbelievably I don't know that I have ever made play dough. I have a vague recollection of making it one time in college in one of my early childhood education classes. But it really is on the realm of did I actually do that or did I watch someone else do it? Does anyone else have those kind of memories? So, I definitely haven't made play dough in the past decade, so naturally I picked the easiest recipe I could find to start with from Kids Activities Blog. No cooking. Two ingredients. 10 minutes. Perfect.
I love the fact that it's so easy to make. All you need is corn starch and conditioner.
I chose Suave conditioner because it was on sale and super cheap, 79 cents to be exact. I thought green apple would be a fun smell for dough too. I also did add two tiny drops of green food coloring (not pictured). I wanted to keep a pastel color (for Spring and shamrocks) but the conditioner alone wasn't enough to give it the green hue I was hoping for.
I will go ahead and say this right now, this dough should not be ingested as it contains conditioner. So closely monitor or skip this project if your little one has a tendency to put things in his/her mouth. My daughter is almost 2 and she was fine, but she's never been one to stick things in her mouth.
Back to the dough-- all you have to do is add 2 parts cornstarch to 1 part conditioner. For all of you non-math folks out there, believe me I'm not judging, I put in 1 cup of cornstarch and 1/2 cup of juicy green apple conditioner, which makes plenty of dough for two little ones.
I don't know if I should admit this or not, but when we first did this activity, I thought I remembered the amounts for the recipe so I didn't look it up again before we started. I really should never do that, especially not when little eyes are counting on me. I put in equal portions of conditioner and corn starch and got a gloppy, sticky mess. My four year old son said, "Mom this is not play dough." I could tell he was not impressed. So I went back and read the instructions again and added another 1/2 cup of corn starch. I guess I'm telling you this because if your mixture is too sticky you need more corn starch. If your mixture is too dry and floury you need a little more conditioner. But from what I've read it depends on the conditioner you use as to exact amounts. Don't be afraid to play around with the portions. I thought I had completely messed up the dough, but everything turned out fine.
Now, I will go ahead and say, it's messy. My daughter's shirt was a little floury around the sleeves and on her belly, but nothing the washing machine couldn't handle. I also had to wash the play dough toys my kids used in the sink because corn starch has a tendency to stick to things. We used our play dough mat to play on and I easily wiped everything down after playing. However, despite the little bit of mess, my kids loved it! There were actually tears when it was time to clean up and get ready for dinner (always a sign of something fun). I guess we've found a new favorite, for now. I'll keep you posted on our next dough experience.