Thursday, October 27, 2011

Corner Store Playdough

The longer we live in Brooklyn and the more experience I gain living here, the more I learn to improvise.  Can't carry the dog food home from the store?  Order it on Amazon.  Dryer takes three and a half hours to dry a load of clothes?  Hang them all.  So when I wanted to make play dough for Tye but couldn't find food coloring at any of the local corner grocery stores (or our nearby Target), I thought of one of my favorite recipes for play dough from my teaching days: Jello play dough.  It's a beautiful, smooth consistency, smells yummy, and doesn't require food coloring- perfect for life in our area of Brooklyn, where apparently no one uses food coloring. (I know, I don't use artificial food coloring, either- except for making play dough!) 
Jello Play Dough

1 cup flour (plus additional for kneading)
2 Tbsp salt
3-4 Tbsp cream of tartar
1 small package flavored gelatin (we used blue raspberry)
2 Tbsp cooking oil
1 cup water

Combine ingredients in a medium pot or large saucepan, stirring until smooth.  Place the pan over low heat and stir continuously until the texture changes and the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the edge.  Turn dough out onto wax or parchment paper to cool.  Add flour gradually and knead until smooth and no longer sticky.  Store in an airtight container.  If it becomes dry, knead in a little oil and add less flour next time.  

Though I've been wanting to try out play dough with Tye for a while, this was our first experience with it.  She asked to eat it many times and even tried to sneak a few tastes, but did a much better job keeping it out of her mouth than I had expected.  We had a great time playing together, making shapes with our hands and cookie cutters, but Tye's favorite play dough activity was finding small animals hidden within the dough.  She loves the idea of hiding right now and becomes really excited to find items.  When she realized there were animals hiding in the dough, she squealed and giggled with delight, then re-hid them in their "house."   

Play dough is great for a child's development, with opportunities to practice fine motor skills (cutting, shaping, twisting) and coordination (using a rolling pin, practicing cutting dough "snakes" with scissors) and to engage in sensory input- squeezing the soft, squishy dough- that can be hard to find elsewhere.  Plus, as Tye will tell you, it's fun!  
Needless to say, we're going to be making a lot more play dough in the future.  I'm excited to try some natural food colors, like adding/substituting beet juice, green or hibiscus tea, turmeric, and orange peel to the water in other recipes, and turn our improvising into a culinary adventure.   At least I know I can fall back on more Jello in a pinch.


  1. Love the post Em! I will be making Jello play dough when we return from the west coast!

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