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.
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! ;)
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! :)
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? :)
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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) 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! :)
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! :)
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. :)
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. ;)
Vanilla, rum, and nutmeg made Egg Nog Play Dough smell just like real egg nog!
By the way...
...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... ;)