The Ultimate Guide to Homemade Play Dough in Winter-Themed Scents and Colors

Homemade play dough in winter-themed colors and scents

I've been wanting to make my own scented play dough ever since my friend Melissa gave us some of her homemade holiday-scented play dough 2 years ago. Melissa had the creative idea of using flavored/scented teas in place of the water called for in basic play dough, and it works fabulously, adding more variety to the extracts and oils I already have on hand.

In fact, I didn't buy anything special to make any of these kinds of play dough! The ingredients, coloring, spices, oils, extracts, and teas were all things I already had sitting around.

Ruth (3)

Homemade scented play dough is very versatile and flexible. There are a variety of ways to achieve the desired "flavors", so you can pick and choose based on what you have in your cupboards. (I resisted scraping seeds out of a real vanilla bean for my "sugar cookie dough" play dough... I mean, it's just play dough, after all.) ;)

Here is the basic homemade play dough recipe. This is the one my mom made, and is very popular in books and online -- and no wonder, because it's easy and good. :) It's safe and easy enough for the kids to do most of the making, non-toxic (but not tasty), and kind of addictive to make once you get started! ;)

Gingerbread Spice Play Dough

Basic Homemade Play Dough (makes 2 cups)
takes 5-10 minutes to mix up and 5 minutes to heat

1 cup all-purpose flour (sift if lumpy)
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tarter
1 cup water or cooled tea (for flavors -- see below)
1 1/2 tablespoons oil (vegetable or canola)
Food coloring, as desired


1. In a 2-quart sauce pan, whisk together the flour, salt and cream of tarter. Add the water and oil and whisk until smooth. Add desired food coloring. (Keep in mind that the color will get slightly darker after it's heated.)

2. Place pan over low heat and cook and stir until it thickens and forms a ball (about 5 minutes for a single recipe). When it's impossible to stir and looks like a bug sticky lump, it's done! :)

3. Turn out onto the counter or a mat, scraping pan clean with a spatula. Knead the warm dough a couple times, and place in a loosely-covered container to cool. (Or, let the kids play with it right away!) Store in a sealed container or ziplock bag when not in use.

For gluten-free homemade play dough, check out Michele's recipe at Frugal Granola! :)

Hot Cocoa Play Dough

Now comes the fun part: picking out some spices, teas, oils, or extracts to add to the basic recipe above and making some holiday-themed play dough that looks and smells awesome! Seriously, if you're like me, you won't be able to stop opening the lids to smell your play doughs when you're done making them.

I'll tell you about the (successful) flavors/scents I've created, and include my as-yet-untested ideas for even more winter flavors at the bottom of this post.

Do NOT worry if you don't have everything listed for the flavor you want to make. Get creative and use whatever you have!! For example, I didn't have all of these teas on hand so I used vanilla or vanilla caramel tea in a number of the recipes. I like to buy Bigelow's holiday teas on clearance or on sale with a coupon, but it's also okay to use something else!

Think of these recipes as a starting point to get you going, okay? :)

Eliyahu (5)

Ready? Here is:

Fir Tree / Evergreen (green)
Sugar Cookie Dough (tan)
Peppermint Stick / Candy Cane (pink)
Egg Nog (yellow)
Gingerbread Spice (brown)
Orange / Orange Spice (orange)
Hot Cocoa (dark brown)
Cinnamon Stick (red)

More ideas for holiday-themed play doughs

Tips for making homemade play dough

How cheap is homemade play dough?

Fir Tree / Evergreen Play Dough

Fir Tree / Evergreen Play Dough

This evergreen tree scented play dough is one of my favorites. It just smells SO GOOD! If you only have rosemary on hand, it will still smell wonderful, but I had pine and fir oils which put it over the top. I could smell this all day! It's like a walk in the woods...

Water: Use 2 tablespoons of dried rosemary and just over 8 ounces of boiling water to make a "tea"/infusion. Let steep for 20+ minutes. Strain out the rosemary and use 1 cup of your rosemary "tea" in place of the water in the basic recipe.

Spices: Add powdered rosemary

Oils and extracts: Pine oil, fir needle oil, or rosemary oil

Coloring: As green as you want it! :)

Sugar Cookie Dough Play Dough

Sugar Cookie Dough Play Dough

I love how this scent turned out, and Joshua says it's his favorite. It smells good enough to eat! I wanted to scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean to add to this play dough, but didn't. ;) It's still amazing. (Coconut extract is awesome.)

Water: Use Bigelow's vanilla tea or vanilla caramel tea. Steep teabag in just over 8 ounces of boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Remove tea bag and use 1 cup of the tea (cooled or warm, but not hot) in place of the water in the basic recipe.

Spices: None

Oils and extracts: 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon coconut extract

Coloring: None needed, especially if you're using dark tea and dark vanilla extract! :)

Peppermint Stick / Candy Cane Play Dough

Peppermint Stick / Candy Cane Play Dough

This one's easy, affordable (peppermint oil is one of the cheapest!), and Ruth's personal favorite since it's PINK. I love the smell. Peppermint is always a winner.

Water: Brew some peppermint tea, allow to cool, and use 1 cup of peppermint tea in place of the water in the basic recipe.

Spices: None

Oils and extracts: Use a tablespoon of peppermint extract, OR about 10 drops of peppermint oil (and 2 drops of spearmint oil, optional)

Coloring: Any shade of pink! If you're not making Fir/Pine play dough, you could make this one green instead of pink.

Egg Nog Play Dough

Egg Nog Play Dough

I think this one smells just like real egg nog! Yummy. :)

Water: Use Bigelow's EggNogg'n flavored tea. Steep teabag in just over 8 ounces of boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Remove tea bag and use 1 cup of the tea (cooled or warm, but not hot) in place of the water in the basic recipe.

If you have everything else for this flavor, you can just use plain water and it will still be GREAT.

Spices: 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Oils and extracts: 1 teaspoon rum extract and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Coloring: Yellow!

Gingerbread Spice Play Dough

Gingerbread Spice Play Dough

This is Eliyahu's favorite. He calls it "the one that looks like sand" because he keeps forgetting the word "gingerbread". Mmmmm....

Water: Use Bigelow's Ginger Snappish flavored tea. Steep teabag in just over 8 ounces of boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Remove tea bag and use 1 cup of the tea (cooled or warm, but not hot) in place of the water in the basic recipe.

Spices: 1+ tablespoon powdered ginger, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Oils and extracts: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon maple flavoring

Coloring: None needed! :)

Orange Spice Play Dough

Orange Spice Play Dough

Having good quality orange oil on hand made this one a no-brainer. We love this Boyajian pure orange oil, and it's cheaper than buying the little bottles of orange extract at the grocery store (plus it's way better).

Water: Use orange spice tea (lots of brands have this flavor!). Steep teabag in just over 8 ounces of boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Remove tea bag and use 1 cup of the tea (cooled or warm, but not hot) in place of the water in the basic recipe.

Spices: 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Oils and extracts: Orange extract or oil (quite a bit -- until it smells really orange-y), cinnamon oil (3 drops), and clove oil (2 drops)

Coloring: Orange! Due to the ground spices I added, my orange spice play dough is a darker shade.

Hot Cocoa Play Dough

Hot Cocoa Play Dough

I used dark cocoa powder to make this hot cocoa play dough super chocolate-y. Yum!

Water: Use plain water as called for in the basic recipe, but add an additional tablespoon of oil to the recipe (2 1/2 tablespoons of oil total).

Spices: 1/3 cup cocoa powder (baking cocoa, NOT sweetened)

Oils and extracts: 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Coloring: None needed

Cinnamon Stick Play Dough

Cinnamon Stick Play Dough

I love the cinnamon scent, but couldn't get the red shade I was after. Brown may be a better color for cinnamon play dough, allowing you to add plenty of ground cinnamon! :)

Water: Use Cinnamon Spice tea or herbal tea (any brand). Steep teabag in just over 8 ounces of boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Remove tea bag and use 1 cup of the tea (cooled or warm, but not hot) in place of the water in the basic recipe.

Spices: 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or more, if making brown play dough)

Oils and extracts: Cinnamon oil

Coloring: I used red, but will probably go with brown next time.

Yehoshua (7), making play dough
Yehoshua (7) stirs the play dough for a couple minutes, until it's too thick for him

When I get time to try new flavors, I'll update this post! Here are more of my ideas:

Chai Tea Play Dough -- Using chai tea, chai spices, and/or spice oils

Mocha / Cappuccino Play Dough -- Use strong instant coffee, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract

Caramel Apple Play Dough -- Use caramel and apple flavored teas, ground cinnamon, and vanilla extract

Pumpkin Pie Play Dough -- Use Bigelow's Pumpkin Spice tea and ground pumpkin pie spices

Chocolate Mint Play Dough -- Like the Hot Cocoa Play Dough above, but add mint extract or oil

Sugar Plum Fairy Play Dough -- Use Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum tea or Bigelow's Cherry Almond tea, vanilla and almond extracts, and color it purple!

As you can see, the possibilities are practically endless! :) I'd love to hear your flavor ideas in the comments section below! :)

Fir Tree / Evergreen Play Dough

Tips for making homemade play dough:

Adding the oils and extracts:

I added most of my oils or extracts at the beginning, before heating the play dough. You can stir them in at the end, but I found the dough thickened so quickly (and I had little helpers!) that it was easier to just add at the beginning. In the event that you forget to add them at the end, you could also carefully knead them into the play dough (I've done that, and it worked okay).

Cream of tarter:

Find an affordable source for cream of tarter, since that is the most expensive main ingredient. I got mine at a bulk food store. It's worth checking at your health food store, bulk food store, or bulk section of your grocery store for the best price, especially if you want to make lots of play dough and give as affordable gifts! :)

Adding glitter:

You can also add glitter to your play dough after it's made (just knead it in). Note: It will take a lot of glitter. :)

Storing the play dough:

Jars are nice (and affordable and reusable!), and you can dress them up with fabric, ribbons, and cute tags. I've found that packing the play dough into a jar can make it difficult to pull out easily, though. I prefer shallow, wide jars or else plastic containers instead for ease of use. :)

Sugar Cookie Dough Play Dough

How cheap is homemade play dough?

Just for fun, Joshua and I figured out how much it costs to make a batch of homemade play dough. I used the prices we pay at Costco for our ingredients.

For 2 cups of play dough (basic recipe):

1 cup all-purpose flour -- $0.09 (50#/$14.95)
1/2 cup salt -- $0.05 (25#/$3.95)
2 teaspoons cream of tarter -- $0.10 ($5.45/lb)
1 cup water -- $0.00
1 1/2 tablespoons oil -- $0.03 ($9.59/5qt)

Total cost for basic play dough: $0.27 for 2 cups

The expensive part comes in when you start adding all the "extras" like oils and extracts, or buying special containers or supplies to "dress it up" as gifts. ;)

Extracts for Egg Nog Play Dough
Vanilla, rum, and nutmeg made Egg Nog Play Dough smell just like real egg nog!

By the way...

Moshe's version of "helping"

...this is what Moshe did yesterday to "help" while we made play dough in the kitchen. The contents of our recycling trash can are just so exciting... ;)


WOW ... this is awesome :) How long does homemade play dough last? I can't wait to try it!

This homemade play dough keeps really well. If it's covered/sealed (obviously!), it stays nice for months (in my experience). If it's getting played with a lot by little kids, it will eventually get dirt mixed in with it, get lost on the floor, etc... just like play dough from the store. :)

So... it's easy enough to whip up a fresh batch on the spot, but keeps for a long time, too. :)

Hello, I'm from Argentina and I always make salt dough my baby do not last long and I read that is cream of tartar or vinegar as it says in one of the comments, I'll try!
Now I have to keep mine in the fridge, here it says nothing about where to store it, you need the fridge too?
Thank you so much!

thank you thank you thank you thank you! My 2yo loves play dough and we go through so much of it. Even if a person added in really expensive oils and teas it would still be cheaper than buying it. I've been trying to come up with something to make her for New Years and this will be perfect!

You're welcome, Tiffany! :)

I'm thinking of doing this with my 12 nieces and nephews. I'm planning on sectioning them out into the $1 store muffin tins (not the disposable pans either). probably wrapping each flavor individually and then the whole tin. Then packaging and sending them.

So cute and so cheap!

I love your muffin tin idea!! What a pretty rainbow of colors that would make -- plus an easy way to store all the different kinds! :)

You have listed : oils, teas, spices - Are we supposed to use ALL of them to "flavor" the doughs, or are we to pick one avenue and use it. As in JUST oil, or JUST teas, or JUST spices?!

I want to make these but I don't want ot get everything listed if I don't have to. Any help would be great! Thanks!

You can use whatever you have. :)

For some, I just did oil --like the peppermint would smell great with just peppermint oil! I already had peppermint tea on hand, but it's not necessary.

The evergreen one is great with just rosemary for flavoring! Since I had oils for that one, I used those too, but it's just an option -- I would not have bought them just for that!

The hot cocoa one will still smell nice and chocolate-y with just cocoa powder, but if you have vanilla extract already, it's an option to put it in too.

The more things you add, the stronger the play dough will smell, but it's really flexible!

I think most people have vanilla extract and some spices lying around, and I know a lot of people have at least some kind(s) of teas that could be used from their cupboards -- using a flavored tea just adds more variety/options without having to purchase anything special. :)

Anyway, like I said, I'd suggest experimenting with what you already have on hand. If you're making a lot for gifts, then it might make sense to get a box of "Egg Nog" tea at the store, for example, but NOT if you're just making one batch for your kids. In that case, just use vanilla and nutmeg or something! :)

Another possibility if you don't have certain ingredients like oils where it just takes a few drops would be to ask a friend who has a supply of essential oils. I know I'd be happy to share my essential oils like clove, orange, peppermint, spearmint, etc. with a friend if she just needed a few drops of each! :) A play-dough-making party sounds like a lot of fun... :)

Since you are not eating the play dough and don't have to worry about it being healthy, you can scent and make it smell nice with Kool aid!!! I hate the stuff, but it makes great colors and scents!

That's the only reason I buy Kool-aid. Lol!

Me, too!

I want to try Kool-Aid next Spring/Summer for some fun fruity scents! :)

What is a good price on Kool-Aid packets these days, anyway? I'm guessing they're not 10/$1 any more... ;)

I use kool-aid all the time. I buy packets at my local Aldi and get 10 for about 80 cents.

I love these playdough flavors Tammy! Now I see why you spent all day making it. :)

Thanks, Shannon! :) Joshua laughed at me because he said that trying 9+ flavors/varieties of a new recipe sounds like something he would do, not me. ;)

I look forward to making this for Annie eventually....right now I feel like she's still too little at age 2. :-)

~Stacy from Stacy Makes Cents

I think it depends on the child. :) My older boys didn't do very well with play dough at 2... Ruth does awesome at 3 and Moshe (almost 2) has done surprisingly well with this... and now I have older boys to help sweep up the crumbs afterwards. ;)

We LOVE homemade play-doh! Since our kids are gluten-free it's the only way to go for us. I have never made play-doh with wheat flour (I use rice four), but mine generally goes moldy after a couple of months. I was a little shocked when I pulled it out and it was covered in green fuzz! I am going to try these scents!!


Katie, do you use a similar recipe except substitute rice flour for the all-purpose flour?

I'm guessing that the shelf life of homemade play dough depends on the climate, temperature of the house, etc...

What fun, Tammy! I'm sure your kids loved making these with you! Also, kudos on the beautiful photography. I love how you put the play doughs in containers that complemented the flavors and included "props" to emphasize the flavors. So creative! :)

Aww, thanks. :) I didn't think plain balls of dough looked very nice, so I started looking around for stuff to add. The fir branch was on our deck, so we grabbed it! :) I think the gingerbread one is my favorite... :)

I love the idea of using tea, Tammy! Thanks for this great natural option, and for the link to my gluten-free playdough! :) I think I'll be mixing up some new batches for Christmas gifts.


Thanks, Michele. :) Play dough is so fun! :)

I am so excited to try this. My husband suggested a fire place type smell. We're going to buy some liquid smoke and add it to the dough, Hickory, for that burning fire smell!

Hmmm, we have liquid smoke... what an interesting idea! I wonder if there would be an essential oil that would complement it -- like some sort of woodsy/tree scent. I'll have to smell my oils and see if any of them seem like they would go with hickory smoke. :)

Mulled Cider - I want to steep a packet of mulled cider spices & apple flavored teas!

Ooooh, that sounds great!! :)

I loved the idea of glitter being added. I am going to try adding icing whitener to make the dough white and then add white/sparkly glitter!

Yeah! That sounds perfect! I had thought of making a white vanilla play dough and calling it "snowball" but I didn't even know there was such a thing as icing whitener! :)

Another tip on storing, we usually just make one color so that they don't get all mixed up, but if you buy ice cream in an ice cream bucket, you can make big batches of each color and store in ice cream buckets! It lasts a long time!

Ice cream buckets? That would be a lot of play dough!! :)

I read somewhere (I can't remember where) that you can sub 3 Tbsp vinegar for each 1 tsp cream of tarter -- and it works! I made 10 batches of homemade play dough this week using a very similar recipe...I just sub-ed int he vinegar and added enough water to equal 1 worked great! Don't worry -- the vinegar smell goes away quickly once the play dough is finished!

I'll have to try that next time! That sounds like a cheaper way (and easier, if you don't already have cream of tarter). :)

These ideas are great!! I love making playdough for my preschool class and am always looking for new scents :)
I have found that you can usually skip the cooking part if you use HOT, almost boiling, water. You just add the water into the bowl with dry ingredients and mix it really well. Less clean up and a little bit faster!
Thanks again!

we made hot cocoa, blueberrry, and raspberry play dough tonight - my kids are fighting over making it and the colors to be exact - THEY LOVE IT! The cocoa one is very scented, might be able to use a little less of the cocoa - but it is soooo cool! I had forgotten how easy play dough is to make!!!

What a great post for coming up with some wonderful smelling play doughs! We shared a link back to this post with our readers today. Making and sharing them as goody bag gifts would be a great holiday party idea! We have some gingerbread playdough made, but are planning to make some pepermint this afternoon!

Do the teas actually give the desired color or are you still adding food coloring? I don't like food coloring so am looking for a nautral alt to coloring our playdough.

Some of the play doughs are colored with just the teas -- I've noted those in the "recipe" descriptions. But, the colors are mostly... shades of brown. LOL! :)

I have heard of using turmeric for a natural yellow color (just keep in mind that it can stain). I'm not sure on other colors, now having tried any myself.

I learned of your recipe through a pin on pinterest. We tried making it tonight and my nearly 3 year old twins had so much fun mixing up a batch of play dough! We ended up making a raspberry one with a sugar free jello mix, and then making it different colors with some food coloring. We all look forward to trying it again soon-- I was in a rush so we didn't try all the neat ideas for natural scented different colored play doughs. I hope to in the future though.

I made this today for a play date and it turned out great!! We didn't do any scents, and we added the color at the end and kneaded it in. I had some of that gel kind of food coloring and it worked great and made vibrant colors! Thanks for the cheap and fun recipe!! I want to try more sometime with one of the scents!

What wonderful recipes! I want to try them all.

I just made a few batches of playdoh from your recipe, I put them in the jars but there's condensation in the jars now ( I didn't cover the jars yet) do I let the condensation dry before putting the lids on? Also does this need to be refrigerated ? Thank you!

What about pumpkin& apple pie?
You could use pumpkin pie spice for pumpkin and apple pie spice for apple pie scented.

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