A Gift That’s Fun to Make!

By: Robin Lundgren

This holiday season, have some fun with your kids by helping them make a special gift for their friends: homemade Play Dough!

Though this activity requires the use of your stove, kids will enjoy mixing and measuring, and will have fun packaging the dough and giving it as gifts. For some added fun, make an extra batch for your child to play with!

Here’s what you need

-1 cup white flour

-1/4 cup salt

-2 Tbsp. cream of tartar

-1 cup water

-1Tbsp. oil

-2 tsp. food vegetable food coloring

-small plastic containers with lids or plastic bags

-index or recipe cards

-markers, colored pencils or crayons


Here’s what to do….

1. Ask your child to measure 1 cup of white flour, using a measuring cup. Have her pour the flour into a medium pot.

2. Have your child measure 1/4 cup salt and add it to the pot.

3. Help your child measure 2 Tbsp. cream of tartar and add that to the pot.

4. Direct your child to mix together these ingredients.

5. Have your child add 1 cup of water and 1 Tbsp. oil to the mixture. Tell him to mix this thoroughly.

6. Ask your child to select what color they want the play dough to be. Let her add drops of food coloring, up to about 2 tsp. or more, if desired.

7. Let your child mix the dough, incorporating the food coloring into the mixture until the color looks even.

8. Have your child watch as you cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring for about 3-5 minutes. Indicate on a clock or with a timer how long you are cooking and stirring.

9. Point out to your child how the mixture looks gloppy while you are cooking it. Tell him to watch for when it forms a ball in the center of the pot.

10. When the mixture forms a ball, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and let it cool slightly.

11. Instruct your child to knead the dough for several minutes.

12. Have your child place the dough in a plastic container with a lid or in a plastic bag. Seal tightly.

13. Have your child copy the recipe for the play dough onto one of the index or recipe cards. Encourage her to use very neat handwriting and to decorate the card with her own illustrations.

14. Help your child attach the recipe to the package with ribbon or tape.

15. Let your child choose a friend to give the play dough to as a gift.

This helps develop…

Cognitive skills – the mental process of knowing by developing awareness, perception and reasoning.

In this activity, children practice following a recipe and using multi-step directions. Cooking activities are also great for practicing measuring skills. Kids physically feel the weight and visually see what the amount looks like.

Fine motor skills – the use of small muscle movements in the hands that occur in coordination with the eyes.

Kneading the dough is a great way to enhance fine motor skills. Very young children may tend to poke at the dough with just one finger, so encourage them to use both hands and all of their fingers as they knead. When making the recipe card, drawing, writing and coloring skills are practiced.

Language – the expressive ability to communicate ideas and needs, and the receptive ability to understand what is said or written.

Parents can facilitate language by offering a running dialogue as they perform the steps to make the dough. Kids can describe what they see, talking about how the ingredients change as they are mixed together and when the food coloring is added.

Social emotional development – involves a child’s feelings of self worth and confidence.

Children will enjoy the thrill of making their own play dough from scratch and will feel proud when presenting their gift to an unexpected recipient. v

This monthly family activity series, “Hands-on-Kids!” is brought to you by a partnership between the Children’s Science Center (CSC) and FAMILY Magazine. CSC is committed to building a place where children can grow in their love of learning that will carry them into adulthood. We invite you to visit the CSC website, www.TheChildrensScienceCenter.org, where you and your children can “Explore, Create, Inspire.” Robin Lundgren, a CSC volunteer, is a freelance writer and Vice President of Aquarian Entertainment. “This Helps Develop” is written by Stephanie Rice, a former Fairfax County Special Education teacher who holds a Master’s degree in Education and Human Development.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here