Monday, November 02, 2009

Make It Monday: Homemade Playdough Kit

Welcome to Make-It Monday! For the weeks leading up to Christmas, I'll be posting some homeade, or semi-homemade, gift ideas. Today I'll give you some tips on how to make an inexpensive and very child-friendly gift -- a Playdough Kit.

A couple of years ago, we decided to gift some of Ella's little friends with homemade playdough. Although you can get Play-doh sets at Walmart or Target, it is fun to make your own, your kids can help AND you can personalize the kit for the recipient. Plus, most likely, you've already got the ingredients for playdough in your pantry so it can be very economical as well.

To make a basic kit, you need:
  • Homemade Playdough, of course! It's also nice to include a recipe card so that the recipient can make more when needed. You can also personalize the kit by making playdough in the child's favorite color(s).
  • Small airtight containers or ziploc baggies to hold the playdough
  • A rolling pin. Look for a child-size version at a toy store OR just cut a thick dowel from the hardware store into child-size lengths.
  • A vinyl placemat. I purchased some vinyl tablecloth off the roll at my local Ace Hardware and cut it into the sizes that I wanted.
  • A container or bag to carry it all. You could buy a container at the dollar store or sew some cool fabric into a simple bag with a drawstring.
  • Cookie cutters are also a nice addition. You could personalize the gift by choosing cutters that are related to the child's particular interests.
Playdough recipes abound on the internet. When I made it for gifts years ago, I used an uncooked Kool-Aid Playdough recipe. If you try that recipe, hands down, it will be the best smelling playdough you've ever come across. The result smelled wonderful but the consistency of the different colors/scents was, well, inconsistent. Some were downright sticky. Because of that experience, I think that cooked playdough produces a better result.

I recently came across this recipe that I love! It is the best homemade recipe I've found thus far. Although it doesn't smell as nice as the Kool-Aid playdough, the vanilla is a nice but more subtle scent. Also, by adding the food coloring with the water, the color gets evenly distributed without having to knead it forever. I used liquid food coloring (primary and neon) that I had in my pantry, but if you're looking for other colors like black or brown, try the paste food coloring that you can find in the cake decorating aisle at Walmart or your local craft store. This recipe makes the equivalent of two playdough canisters and you can halve it if you wish with the same results.

Also, because playdough does dry out, you shouldn't make the playdough too far in advance of giving your gift. Just go ahead and buy the other pieces of the kit early on and then make the playdough before gifting it. It takes only about 5 minutes to make a batch!

Homemade Playdough

(makes the equivalent of 2 Play-doh canisters)

1 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon oil
food coloring
1 Tablespoon imitation vanilla extract

In a saucepan, whisk flour, salt and cream of tartar. Add the water, oil and as much food coloring as needed to reach your desired color and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until almost set (it will get difficult to stir). Add vanilla and stir until combined. It may look a little lumpy after being cooked but once you knead it by hand it will be smooth and pliable.

Kool-Aid Option: You can experiment with color and scent by adding 1 or 2 packets of unsweetened Kool-Aid to the recipe in place of the food coloring and vanilla. However, all flavors of Kool Aid might not work as well. I tested it out with two flavors that I had on hand, Lemonade and Grape, and the results were okay but not great. The lemonade hardly added any color at all and I ended up adding yellow food coloring. The grape smelled good but the color was rather muddy. I ended up adding some food coloring to boost the color a bit. From past experience, I bet the Tropical Punch would work well.

Share your ideas! Got a great homemade gift idea of your own? Share your idea or a link in the comments!

For other money saving ideas, check out Frugal Friday at Life As Mom every Friday for one of Jessica's tips as well as links to other bloggers' ideas!


kim said...

Hi. Great idea! I know you don't have a Target near-by but I thought you might like to know that I saw kids baking sets in the $1 section. (I think they were $2.50) They had a little rolling pin, cookie cutters and a whisk. The first two would work great with your play dough gift set.

I'm excited you are posting these ideas. I'm putting together my homemade Christmas lists this year too. I need to get started soon. If you see any blogs with unique gift ideas let me know. Here's another Christmas plan:

Janel said...

Great suggestion about Target. There is one about 30 minutes from here. The Target stuff would also be great in a "Little Chef" kit too. I posted a "basket" that I did for a Silent Auction at Ella's preschool. You could check that post out for some other ideas --

FishMama said...

You are so. stinking. smart. Hiding your light under a bushel, you are.

Frugal Sara said...

Great idea. Who doesn't love Play Dough?!

Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship said...

I've done this too as a totally frugal gift - I used the dowel rolling pin idea and painted the child's name on it, and I have a HUGE tub of cookie cutters from Bed Bath and Beyond for $8 (after coupon) that I grab the first initial letter from. I also look for garlic presses on clearance - they make the greatest play dough "hair" and "spaghetti", along with ice cube trays (for organizing) and a bag of pasta shapes (to make hair, eyes, etc with). What a cute picture you used in this post - perfect!
:) Katie

Juggling Motherhood said...

Love the idea of "Make it Monday"!
Playdough gift is a lovely idea. Once they have the tried and true recipe of Playdough, they will never go back to store bought ones!

Unknown said...

Fantastic idea!! I love it!! In fact I am going to make this for my son's class for Christmas! Thanks so much!! said...

Promoting educational play for children is crucial. Toys like puppets or clay not only entertain but also foster creativity and learning. These interactive tools make playtime both fun and enriching.