Colourful, homemade, no-cook, gluten free playdough is a fun project to make with kids! Get the recipe here.
Cooking with Amelia and Lincoln
Making playdough with kids is almost as much fun as playing with it.
Meet my two partners-in-crime for this Cooking With Kids project: Amelia and Lincoln, four-year-old cousins.
Amelia is almost five and loves to ride her two-wheel bike, go on nature exploring walks, play dress-up, and all things princess. Her favourite colours are pink, purple, and rainbow. She spends hours cutting out her collection of paper dolls and dressing them up.
Lincoln is the youngest in his family, and he loves planes and cars, running fast, and any messy crafts, especially ones including glue, tape, or feathers. His favourite colours are yellow and red, and he could ride around on his red bike all day long.
I've made more batches of playdough over the years than I can count, and even though our four kids are well past the playdough stage now, I still make a few batches every year for my German School Kindergarten class. I've usually made the cooked kind, with flour and salt. It takes a fair bit of time and much muscle to cook and stir the thickening blob in a saucepan on the stovetop, then let it cool enough to handle. This year I decided to figure out a way to make a no-cook, gluten free playdough version, and I think I have a winner.
Have you ever beat mashed potatoes too long, so that they've become rather stretchy and elastic? . . . not great for your mashed potatoes, but really great for playdough!
This recipe uses instant mashed potatoes (for their uniformity) and doesn't need to be cooked. I've added some salt, like in the cooked version, plus a bit of vinegar to help keep the playdough fresh longer (bacteria don't like an acid environment). The only problem with using potatoes, salt, and vinegar is that I get the munchies and crave a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips whenever I smell this playdough. I have to slap my fingers and think of other things. 🙂
While visiting family at the coast this spring, I nabbed my two cousins' children, Lincoln and Amelia to help me make my first trial batches of this gluten free playdough. We had a blast.
They helped me scoop and level the ingredients,
and took turns stirring up the dough.
The fun part - squishing and mixing it with their hands.
We used liquid food colouring, so they had to work the drops of colour in with their hands. Lincoln wanted orange and Amelia wanted purple.
The addition of wiggly eyes turned the lumps of playdough into goofy monsters.
Making the playdough by hand with my two assistants was a whole lot of fun. The finished playdough had natural variations in shade that gave it a handmade look.
If you mix the dough with an electric mixer, you'll have a smoother finish and an even colour to the playdough, but miss out on the sensory thrill of hand mixing. However, kids will still love to help measure the ingredients, turn on the mixer for you, and watch it all come together.
Those first couple batches I made with Amelia and Lincoln were a learning process. The dough was a bit too oily and vinegary. I made several more batches of gluten free playdough at home in my mixer, tweaking the ingredient amounts until I got it right, and using gel food colouring for beautiful vibrant colours.
My kindergarten students at German School loved it, too.
Kitchen Frau Notes: When purchasing instant potato flakes, make sure you get the plain, unflavoured ones.
Gel food colouring can be found where you buy cake decorating supplies. (Michael's Crafts here in Canada)
* I made two batches of the playdough recipe, dividing each into thirds, to get the six balls of colour in the photo below.
Homemade No-Cook Gluten Free Playdough
- 2 cups (140gms) plain, instant mashed potato flakes
- 1 cup (140gms) cornstarch
- ½ cup (160gms) fine sea salt
- 1 cup (240ml) hot tap water
- ¼ cup (60ml) white vinegar
- 2½ tablespoons oil
- gel food colour, or liquid food colour (the gel gives more intense colour)
Combine the instant mashed potato flakes, cornstarch, and salt in a large deep bowl. Add the hot water, vinegar and oil. *If you choose to make the whole batch the same colour, add the food colouring along with the liquid ingredients.
Mix well, either by hand (stirring first with a wooden spoon until it gets too hard to stir) or with an electric mixer, until the mixture comes together in large clumps. This will take several minutes.
If you squeeze a handful of the dough, it should stick together in a clump. If it doesn't, keep mixing and it will eventually come together. (The longer you mix it, the 'stretchier' the dough becomes.)
Once you have a smooth, homogenous mixture, add the food colour to get the desired shades -- divide the dough into two or three parts, colouring each individually.
Start by adding about ⅛ teaspoon gel colour with the tip of a butter knife, or a few drops of liquid colour, to one ball of playdough. Beat with the mixer or work by hand until the colour is evenly mixed in. Add more if you want the colour to be more intense.
If you are using the mixer and plan to colour separate batches, either start with colours that won't muddy the next colour (ie - yellow, then orange, then red) or wash out the bowl between each colour.
Makes three 250-gram (8-oz) balls of gluten free playdough.
Will keep for several weeks in a sealed bag or container. Will keep longer if stored in the fridge. It warms up and becomes pliable within a few minutes of working with it.
See other fun ‘Cooking With Kids’ posts here.
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Wonderful, wonderful, and well written. Most beautiful photos of Amelia and Lincoln.
What fun they had.
It was such fun to watch them. They were enjoying themselves immensely. And thank you for letting us mess up your kitchen! Having kids around just makes life so much better, doesn't it?
How wonderful...looks great, and I must say those are a couple of real cute kiddos;)
I agree - and they are great assistants, too. I love their enthusiasm!
Can this be baked to dry for finished cookie cutter ornaments?
Can this dough be baked to harden for finished creations?
Hi Frances, I haven't tried baking this dough, so I can't tell you how it would work.
If you'd like a nice dough for air drying or baking to make ornaments, stir together 2 cups baking soda, 1 cup cornstarch, and 1 and 1/4 cups water in a saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook the mixture over medium heat until it comes together in a ball. Let cool completely. Knead until smooth.
Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick, using a little extra cornstarch for dusting, if needed, and cut into shapes with a cookies cutter. Use a straw to poke a hole in the top. You can use a butter knife or other tool to add designs or texture. Leave to air dry overnight, turning once before bed (best results) or bake at a very low temperature until hardened (can't remember what temp I used to use - haven't made them for a while). Makes nice, smooth, pure white ornaments that are lovely plain, or can easily be painted or varnished (can sprinkle glitter on while paint or varnish is wet).
Does this work with regular table salt?
Hi Shandea. Yes, it works fine with regular table salt. I just always use sea salt since it has no additives. Happy smooshing!