Glad you asked.
One morning when I walked into the play room at my gym, all de-stressed and ready to pick up my son, I encountered 7 or 8 wee children playing with GOBS of bright blue playdough. They were entranced by the stuff. Naturally I asked for the recipe and thus began my love affair with homemade playdough.
First, here’s the recipe:
2 cups flour
2 cups food-colored water
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup salt
Mix it up! Cook it up! Slowly on medium-high heat in a medium or large pan until it thickens. Then let it cool.
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Now, both my kids wanted to play with it, and with a 6 year age difference, they are cognizant of different things while making art, so I focused on different things with each of them.
Fen got to color the water, under the condition that she couldn’t use a color straight out of the food coloring bottle. She had to decide what color she wanted to make the dough, and figure out which colors to mix. She chose turquoise, and thus mixed blue and green together.
With Beckett, I showed him how to roll balls and coils. He was more interested in having me roll tiny balls that he could whip around, but hopefully I got the basic concept of dough-shaping across to him.
Playdough is of course a great precursor to learning ceramics, so you could delve into coil pots, pinch bowls, flat self-portraits, drawing with coils, texture-making with: crumpled foil, a comb, a piece of screen, spoons, fabric, you name it.
If you have the store-bought kind or are really awesome and make more than one color, you can get into color-mixing in the dough stage. It’s cool to watch different colors marbleize and then fully mix together into custom hues.
Or you know, you could just let your kids experiment with this classic sculptural material on their own while you kick back with a cup of tea. Maybe if you yelled ‘art’ words at them from time to time, their brains would subconsciously memorize them.
Here’s a cheat sheet:
Here are some alternatives to making your own dough.