Simple Homemade Playdough Recipe

Five playdough piles stacked on top of each other.

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Five playdough piles stacked on top of each other.

Have you watched the Pixar movie Inside Out?

We finally watched it last weekend, and I have to admit, it surpassed every bit of my expectations. We loved it so much in fact, that we are considering going to the movies a second time to watch it all over again after the 4th of July weekend.  The discussion after we walked out of the theater turned into a gazillion thoughts about our new favorite movie.  Each of us had our own favorite part.

The topic for the rest of the night (and the following days) quickly became all about emotions. So, I took the opportunity to expand on the topic of interest by asking them what their favorite part of the movie was, and why. What things in their lives make them feel angry, sad, happy, scared? It was the perfect set-up.  We talked up a book of feelings that day.

Why it’s important to have conversations about feelings with young children.

It’s our job as parents to teach them how to manage this complex part of life so that they don’t fall to pieces at the first sign of disappointment. Remember, young children don’t have experience managing their own feelings, let alone someone else’s. What looks like a simple obstacle to us adults, can be a rollercoaster maze to a young child. The good news is that children are resilient and learn best by example.

After watching the movie, I realized it’s been a long time since we dove into this topic. I found myself wondering what else we could do to reinforce the importance of understanding these emotions.

As luck would have it, a few days later, we went to Walmart for some groceries and other items we needed. While passing through the aisles, we found an Inside Out display on the main aisle across from the toys and bikes.  Both my son and daughter were ecstatic (as was I) to see all five plush main characters there: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust.  I knew this was the perfect opportunity to continue on the topic of feelings, so we brought our favorite characters home with us.

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Children learn best by example and through hands-on learning.

While my daughter has the heart of a saint with the ability to understand all this, my son is still learning how to interpret his and others’ feelings. Some of the best tools to help with these kinds of lessons during the preschool years are through modeling the behavior ourselves, as well as stimulating the senses. The senses awaken emotions in a different way that plain words can’t. This is why it’s always good to change the approach we take in teaching children how to communicate.

In this case, a simple homemade playdough recipe can be a perfect tool to do just that.  It not only requires the use of strength and touch to manipulate the dough, but it creates opportunities in which children can engage in natural discussions with their peers.  Children want those connections, we just have to provide a setting that creates those opportunities.

A preschool activity about emotions.

Playdough can provide more than just fine motor skill experiences! When searching for a playdough recipe, you’ll find that most recipes for homemade playdough are either cooked or use cream of tartar.  When I first started working in the preschool classroom, I bought a jar of cream of tartar once for a playdough recipe.  After watching a more experienced Teacher whip up a batch in no time with flour, oil, water, and a ton of salt, I never bought cream of tartar again.

It is, however, the easiest playdough recipe for a child to make. Preschoolers might need a little bit of your help, but this should be easy for a school-age child to make on their own. I’ll show you.

Actually, my 7-year-old will.

Simple Homemade Playdough 4First, combine the cornstarch and flour together.  As you can see, the measurements don’t have to be exact.  Just get them as close to the recipe as possible.

Simple Homemade Playdough 5You might have flour and cornstarch all over your kitchen counter, but don’t worry, it’s all for a good cause.  Your children are learning!

Simple Homemade Playdough 6Add the water.  I typically add the gel food coloring in with the water and mix, but when you have children in the kitchen, all rules go out the door.

Simple Homemade Playdough 7That’s one of the beauties about a playdough recipe that doesn’t have to be cooked.  Usually, you can give or take a pinch or two of ingredients, or skip a step in the process, and it still comes out ok.

Simple Homemade Playdough 8Add the oil.  I also add this to the water with the food coloring, but obviously my 7-year-old had to change things up a bit.  It was a fun learning experience for her.

Simple Homemade Playdough 9After you’ve added all the wet ingredients and begin to stir it all together, it will start to clump up into a ball of dough.  Knead it well until it is soft, one color, and forms into a soft ball.

None of it will make any sense when you start because of the amount of flour that doesn’t stick at first, but trust me, it will all be right in the end.

Simple Homemade Playdough 11See!  A perfect ball of green dough.  If a 7-year-old can do it, so can you.

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To help reiterate the emotions, I printed images of each character and had the plush dolls on the chairs next to us to use as models. We talked about their body positions, their eyes, the colors that represented each emotion, and even practiced saying the emotions in Spanish.

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We haven’t had this much fun with playdough in a while.  We typically create more abstract and three-dimensional objects, so this was a nice change.  I encourage you to try it at home.  Watch the movie with your children.  Pick up a plush doll at Walmart, and go make some playdough to recreate the different emotions and their facial expressions.  Practice making the faces for fun, too!

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If you’ve watched the movie already, feel free to share your thoughts about it in the comments! I’m curious to know what others thought of it.

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Can’t make playdough today?  Pin the picture below on Pinterest for later!

Simple Homemade Playdough Recipe 20Have fun!

4 from 1 vote

Simple Homemade Playdough Recipe

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 1 cup
Author Stephanie Chavez


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • gel food coloring of your choice


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and cornstarch. Mix well.
  2. In a small bowl or medium cup, combine the water, gel food coloring, and oil. Mix well

  3. Add the colored water to the dough and stir until it begins to form a ball of dough. Turn out the dough with all the remaining flour onto a clean hard surface. Knead well until smooth.

  4. Store in an airtight container when not in use.

Recipe Notes

If the dough starts to get a little dry, rub a little bit of oil on it with your fingers and knead it again. Store in an airtight container, wrapped in plastic wrap, or in a ziplock bag with all the air removed.

This playdough is only good for two or three days at most. 

by Stephanie Chavez

Author & Content Creator for Spanglish Spoon.

  1. Summer Len Davis

    That is the easiest playdoh I’ve EVER SEEN! My son has Celiac disease, so we have to find a gluten free version. I wonder if I could just use our gluten free playdoh mix. #client

    • Stephanie Chavez

      Hi Char,

      Thank you so much for pointing that out to me. I hadn’t realized there was a typo in the recipe. It should be 1/2 cup water, not 1 cup. I’m sorry about that. I will make the adjustment right now. Thank you for coming back here to let me know!


    • Stephanie Chavez

      I can’t say for sure because we haven’t tried baking the dough. Sounds like an interesting experiment waiting to happen though!

  2. Marcos

    Thank you! Just made a batch of purple with/for Lupita. She insisted on doing most of the work. We used Maicena (atole, but not the flavored kind) as I guess that’s just cornstarch. We used more like a tablespoon of aceite, adding a few drops at a time as we mixed the dough.

    One thing I would recommend on the food coloring. Don’t stint! We made purple from red and blue. The colored water was darker than espresso! But it only made a pastel purple. Fortunately this was satisfactory to Lupita, but I was expecting a deep berry purple.

    • Stephanie Chavez

      Hi Marcos! Thank you for sharing your experience with this recipe. My kids always love to take over when it comes to making playdough too. That’s the whole point of projects like this though, isn’t it? Most children love to experiment and get all their senses involved. I wonder how it would have turned out if you used the flavored Maicena! You got me curious about that now. I might have to try that sometime. As for the food coloring, I didn’t realize until you brought it up that my instructions don’t specify which type of food coloring is best. We use gel food coloring from craft stores that are in the baking supplies aisle. Not the ones sold at grocery stores. I’m so glad you came here to mention that. I will update the recipe with that detail. Thanks again!

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