This Is the Best Homemade Sculpting Dough

When my son was young, we went through a very large phase of “sensory activity”. Any new texture he could crush or dazzle (and incorporate dinosaurs into his battles) would keep him busy for tens of precious minutes. He loved the regular Play-Doh, so I went looking for a homemade version that was a little softer and fluffier, and immediately found a favorite.

The nice thing about making it at home is that you get more dough for your money, and it’s non-toxic if you have the kind of kid who loves to sneak a snack here or there. (Sodium is high, so we shouldn’t be encouraging full-bodied snacks, but it doesn’t hurt a bit.) I got this recipe from , but you can find variations all over Pinterest.

Start by mixing the following ingredients in a bowl:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or any cooking oil)

Next, pour in 1-1 / 2 cups of boiling water. Mix water with ingredients until dough forms. Be careful here because you just added boiling water, so the dough is hot.

If you need a dough of a solid color, you’re done! If you want to add a little color, wait for the dough to cool completely and then divide it into pieces. Roll the sections into balls, place them on wax or parchment to protect the surface from stains, then make a depression in the center of each ball to form a small bowl for the dye. Like this:

At this stage, you can add only one color or mix dyes to create other colors. Knead the dough so that the paint is completely covered with paint. (You can use plastic or rubber gloves at this point to prevent stains on your hands.) You can continue to create indentations and add a few more drops of dye as you mix, depending on how vibrant you want the colors to be.

When my son finished playing, I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and stored it in a large, resealable plastic bag in a cool place for several months.

The author of Kids Activities found that her scent would start to take on a sour scent after a month or two, but she managed to add a couple of drops of extracts like peppermint or orange to mask the scent. (It also adds an extra “sensory” element to the exercise.)

The material is really surprisingly soft and I’ve found it more enjoyable to grip and manipulate than store-bought material. It still crumbles a little, as you can see in the top picture, but it can be easily cleaned by pressing a large ball of dough against the crumbly pieces.

You can even ask your kids to help with measuring, mixing, or kneading – just make sure the dough has cooled from boiling water to the center before they start this step.

Giant plastic dinosaurs are optional.


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