September 15, 2011

Homemade play dough recipe using Kool-Aid or Jell-O (preschool teacher and kid approved!)

My friend Zene (a preschool teacher) makes the BEST play dough. It smells amazing. It’s the best texture. It’s easy to clean-up. And, it’s very FRUGAL and easy to make.

So I had Zene write up a post for you so you could become a homemade play dough pro, too:
As a preschool teacher, I make a few batches of play dough each year. Last year I made nearly 25 for a preschool conference being held at our school. Being frugal with play dough will pay off. Not only will you be able to make more batches, but you will be able to experiment with different colors and smells! My son’s favorite is blue. We like to use the blue raspberry flavored Jell-O for blue play dough. My preschool kids like any color, especially if it smells yummy!

Add color, smell or pizzazz to your play dough – Kool aid is the most inexpensive way to color AND add scent to your play dough. I prefer two packets for the most vibrant color. For my preschool conference I wanted a large variety of scents and used a cheap mango flavored Tang mix from Grocery Outlet that our family never got around to drinking. It was great for the play dough and smelled yummy! If you have extra drink mixes laying around (think Crystal Light, single use water flavorings, etc.) use them for play dough. If you are the type that doesn’t normally buy gross dye and sugar laden drink mixes, not to fear, use baking extracts. Orange, almond, rum at Christmas, use your imagination. Another great add-in is glitter. We like to put glitter in our green play dough in December, and in our white play dough in January. It adds depth and pizazz.

Play dough toys, tools – Play dough toys are a must, but they certainly don’t have to be bought. Break out the cookie cutters, rolling pins, spoons, potato masher, cups, melon baller, corn cob skewers, tooth picks, small toys to bury, use a butter knife for chopping, etc. You will be jealous that your kids get to have all the fun. Just beware of containers with little openings, play dough is really tough to fish out.

Clean-up tips – If you are worried about the kitchen table use a plastic table cloth or cutting board, but play dough wipes off very easily. Does your child wander around the house with play dough or does he/she stick it in weird places? That’s okay! As a preschool teacher, I’ve seen it all! There is no need to worry about play dough on your carpet. 75% of my preschool room is covered in carpet and we have NO play dough on it currently. It ALL comes off the next time you vacuum. If you find play dough on your carpet, pick up any large pieces, let it dry and vacuum. If there are any pieces left over, pick at it a bit with your finger or a butter knife and it will come right off. Play dough eventually dries and shrivels, so if it gets stuck in the tub faucet, outlet, belly button, it will come out. I had a preschool student stick it in her nose once, luckily at her own home! Doctors orders were to just wait till the nose cleaned itself out. This play dough happened to be bright green 😉 and all of it did come out.

Play dough recipe

1 cup flour

1 cup water

2 tablespoons oil (vegetable, canola)

1/2 cup salt

1 teaspoon Cream of Tartar

Food coloring, Kool Aid, Jell-O or other colorful mix (prefer two packages of Kool-Aid for best color)

1 quart-sized Ziploc bag for storage

This is FAST and HOT so kids will not be able to help with this part. Mix ALL ingredients in a large pot stirring constantly over medium-high heat. You will need to keep the mixture moving so it doesn’t burn or cook unevenly. Stir until the dough pulls away from the sides. Turn off the heat and keep the pot ON the burner. Keep stirring the dough until it forms a ball. Remove dough from heat and let it cool to a comfortable touch. Don’t worry if there are small clumps of flour, they will knead out.

Heather’s Note – I grew up with my mother making our play dough, so I have a special place in my heart for it. I wanted to give this recipe a test run, so I made two batches yesterday (would have made more but ran out of salt!). My first batch I got distracted chatting with my sister on the phone and it got a little hot before I could stir it up – so I had more flour balls that needed to be worked in by hand. My second batch was at a lower heat with my undivided attention and it turned out PERFECT. I’m thinking it would be fun to make up a series of colors and wrap them up with some fun tools as a Christmas gift!

And just because I love sharing photos, here are some from when my son and I tested out the recipe. . .

If you have alphabet cookie cutters it can be a great way to have your kids practice their letters while also playing. I have a funny story about these cookie cutters pictured above – they came in a box of 100 cookie cutters that I bought in college. Yes, I bought a box of 100 misc. cookie cutters because I was looking for a heart cookie cutter to make heart-shaped cookies for my boyfriend at the time. I couldn’t find a heart cookie cutter (sold by itself) ANYWHERE in town – so I ended up buying a box of 100 for that one little heart cookie cutter inside. Not exactly frugal – but hey, I was in love. 🙂 Little did I know that someday that boyfriend would become my husband and that I’d end up using those cookie cutters to play with our son. 🙂 Okay – all at once, everyone say “Ahhhhh. . ..”

And while you are “ahhing” . . . this photo of my son is one of the many Mom-ents when I find myself caught off guard and get all teary-eyed and sentimental. I quickly forget all the Legos I step on or the messes I clean up. But I just stop and thank God for my blessings and my babies – who don’t seem to be staying babies very long. The days can sometimes be long – but the years sure do seem short. I’m so glad I captured it on camera, thanks for letting me share.  . . I’m gonna go grab a tissue. . .

I’d love to hear from you if you make this recipe or you have other ideas for fun with play dough!

p.s. If you like this post please “share” it with your friends – you can use the icons at the bottom of the post to share on Facebook, Twitter, carrier pigeon (just kidding) – but I appreciate you sharing. 🙂

Amazon has a great price on the Melissa & Doug Shape, Model and Mold – we have these tools and love them!


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  1. Brought memories of making large batches of playdough for my Son’s preschool. My Son is 47 now in 2017.I do like the enhancements & look forward to using this recipe with my great grandchildren.

  2. mara may carson says

    also about how long do you have to let it to cool?

  3. Hi!! 🙂
    I’m wondering how long does this last? Do you have to keep it at a certain temperature?

  4. How long does this play dough last?

  5. I’ve been making this play dough ever since you posted it and I still love it! I usually use food coloring but I’ve been making batches with one packet of tropical punch kool-aid and dumping in a bunch of glitter – it turns a pretty pink, smells awesome, and the glitter doesn’t leave (much of) a mess!

  6. debbie pruitt says

    I still mix this up for rainy days a nd we still enjoy it

  7. I used to make homemade play-dough about 18 years ago when my daughter was 4 🙂 Now I have 2 grand-daughters ( 3 and 5) and would like to make it once again. I used food coloring back then and it stained not only our hands but the play clothes she was wearing. I notice that in all the comments, there is nothing about the Kool-Aid staining. Has anyone had this happen with the Kool-Aid? Would like to make a set of play-dough for each girl for Christmas.

  8. Cathy Dougherty says

    what if a batch turns out sticky? is there anything i can do to salvage it? love the fun of doing this with my granddaughter!

    • You can try adding flour, just a little at a time until it has the right texture if its sticky. If it gets too “dry” you can add a little water I’d guess in small amounts. That’s usually how it works with any kind of issue with dough.

  9. Cheyenne Thorpe says

    i made this for my oldest daughter’s preschool class (the school would not allow the purchase of the material BOO) . It was a fantastic success. I made two huge binsone of Blue Hawaii and one of Orange using KOOL-AID. Not only was it exactly like store bought but it smelled great and did not get gummy if you played with it a long time. It was super easy and quick to make …Warning must have extreme upper body strength to do 4 or 5 batches at a time…it gets really hard to stir and it is a little harder if there are any clumps!! My daughter also now thinks I am magical:)

  10. Thanks for this! I made my first batch last night w/ green food coloring & it came out perfect. today I tried jello & it is super sticky compared to the last batch. I am thinking I used too much jello? what size box do you use for 1 batch? do you use it all? and if you have the “sticky issue”, does adding flour afterwards help? Any other hints?

    thanks so much!

  11. Can this play dough recipe be baked? With Christmas around the corner I’d love to start a tradition of ornament-making.

  12. does this playdough need to be refridgerated?

  13. Great recipe. I have the same box of 100 cookie cutters. I bought it for the one flower shaped one! lol. I just thought of a simple diy textured roller. Apply some squiggley lines or other patterns to a small coffee can with hot glue. I’ll have to try that. Thanks again.

  14. I just made this today… was extremely “soupy” and had to add another cup of flour. Are you sure the measurements are 1 cup flour and 1 cup water?

    • never mind… I found my mistake… I didn’t read all the directions and just followed the recipe without cooking it! That’ll teach me!

  15. As a former preschool teacher, I can vouch for this recipe. Got ahold of a Kool Aid playdough recipe in college, only it was no cook. Unfortunately, I can no longer find it, and I haven’t been able to replicate it, so I converted to the cooking kind. Now I use it for my son. It’s the only kind of playdough we make.

  16. I am so excited!!! What a great idea for christmas! I have 15 neices and nephews (not to mention 7 of them have birthdays in the next couple of months)so I am always looking for frugal but great Christmas gifts and this smell good playdough will be perfect! Thanks for the great idea!! My kids will love this too! We go through playdough like crazy 🙂 but they have never had smelly kind-so fun!

  17. Many years ago when I made this for my then little one, I found that my food processor was fantastic for mixing the dough since it was so hot. Watching the color swirl into the flour was “cool” and clean up was no problem. Best of all, no one got burned!

  18. Do you have to make a batch for each color? Is that why it doesn’t say when to add the Kool-Aid?

  19. This is “our,” recipe, and it’s totally the best. We just use a little food coloring rather than the kool aid.

    My son’s preschool used it as well, and it would keep nicely in a rubbermaid container for about a month (there was always a new color for a new month).

    Much, much easier clean up than the store bought stuff imho.

  20. I just made this with my little girl! BEST play dough ever!! Thank you so much for the recipe 🙂

  21. What a great way to use those packs of Kool Aid I bought a couple years ago and we have never used. Can’t wait to try this.

  22. Thank you so much for this post!! I can’t wait to try it our with my kids (and myself ;))!!!


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