Playdough: Just like Grandma used to make

| 17 Mar 2020 | 11:06

I did not learn how to cook from my mother. Instead she often asks me for cooking advice, though she doesn’t usually like my recipes because they are too fussy and time-consuming. But there is one recipe that she has passed down to me, and I will save it on an index card forever. Ok, I might be on my second copy of that card, and my mom gave me a photocopy for safe keeping, so I guess I should be asking her for advice on keeping organized.

When my older son was about 18 months old, she gave me her recipe for playdough. I remember it from my childhood – it was always green or orange, and it was so salty but I just had to give it a little taste anyway. Three kids would be occupied at the dining table, happily shaping, squeezing and sculpting. And now I have my own little one working away, and the younger one trying to eat it. This recipe makes a huge pile (about a quart) of playdough, more satisfying to dig your hands into than the ½ cup portions that you get from the store. When I first started making it, I would portion it out into three balls and mix different colors into each. My kid didn’t care and it was too fussy keeping the colors separate, so now I just make it all one color and every one enjoys playtime a bit more.

Playdough, courtesy of Leslie Millman

2 cups flour

1 cup kosher salt

2 tablespoons cream of tartar

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups water

food coloring

Mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan. Cook over a medium flame, stirring constantly until mixture becomes very thick. Knead slightly as it cools. Store in an airtight container.

- Raheli Harper homesteads on 10 acres where she raises sheep, free-range chickens and children. See her handwork at This week’s Dirt Jr. is brought to you by Dirt magazine. Subscribe at