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Safe Play Dough Recipes for an Infant, Toddler or Preschooler

written by: Sylvia Cochran • edited by: Jacqueline Chinappi • updated: 2/8/2012

Toddlers, preschoolers, and play dough go hand in hand. Sensory play is crucial for infant and toddler play activities, and with a homemade safe play dough recipe, you know exactly what your child touches. Read on for three can’t-miss toddler-safe play dough recipes.

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    Sensory Play

    Play dough is fun for infant and toddler play, but the underlying reason that it is such a vital component for young toddler activities lies in the beneficial sensory play opportunities it provides. In simplest terms, sensory play allows young children to incorporate more than one sense in their activities.

    On the downside, the sense of taste – so vital to the development of infant and toddlers– frequently causes play dough to be nixed for fear that it is eaten. Sure, it says “non toxic” on the package, but can you be sure? With homemade play dough, you can incorporate the sense of taste in infant and toddler play activities which you choose to introduce to your child.

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    Homemade Play Dough

    Play dough is a staple in the art education of children. It allows them to be creative through sculpting with the soft, clay like substance. For the sake of young toddler activities, there are a variety of play dough recipes that not only underscore the sensory play aspect, but also provide the non toxic aspect.

    Homemade Oatmeal Play Dough – No Cooking Required

    This homemade play dough is okay for small hands and even the occasional lick and taste. Mix together one cup of all purpose flower, two cups of instant flavored oatmeal, and one cup of lukewarm water. This makes very sticky play dough that lends itself to be manipulated with wooden craft sticks. It can be rolled into balls, spiked with craft sticks, and overall modeled like you would very sticky clay.

    Even though the oats will soften considerably, they will still retain some texture that adds to the sensory perception of touch. The scent of the flavor – cinnamon in particular – greatly appeals to the sense of smell.

    Basic Homemade Play Dough

    Combine one cup of flour, one cup of water, a half cup of salt, one tablespoon of oil, and one tablespoon of cream of tartar. Cook this mix over low heat, stirring consistently until you feel the mix getting sticky and then firm. Spoon it only a lightly greased cookie sheet, let it cool, divide it into four balls, and knead each one until you have the play dough consistency you want. Increase the oil to two tablespoons if you need more elasticity.

    Add drops of food coloring to each ball, until you have achieved the color you are looking for. Consider adding lemon extract – as it is used in baking -- to a yellow ball for heightened sensory play.

    Baking Soda Play Dough

    If you are ready to throw out your refrigerator box of baking soda, use it for homemade play dough! Mix two cups of baking soda with one cup of corn starch and one and a half cups of water. Cook this mix over low heat until it has thickened. Let it cool on wax paper. Divide this play dough into three balls, kneading half cooked brown rice into the first, uncooked oats into the second, and Cheerios into the third.

    This kind of homemade play dough will appeal to toddlers, infants, and preschoolers because of the different textures of the dough, and the fact that while being handled, the dough’s texture will continue to change.

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    Caveat on Homemade Play Dough

    While homemade play dough is perfect for everyday play, remember that adult supervision is a key element. Do not assume that the play dough is safe to consume, other than the occasional lick of the fingers. Moreover, children with budding food allergies may have adverse reactions to food colorings or other substances you may choose to include in your play dough. Parental supervision is required at all times.