Since my son can't use regular Playdoh for the wheat content, and the school asked for a recipe that is safe for him . . . I thought I'd try making my own. I looked online and found so many different play dough recipes! What to try?? Traditional ones made with wheat flour (no!), gluten free ones made with rice flour, and any combination of the two made with either corn starch (another no-no here) or arrowroot. Then there were the recipes using hair conditioner and cornstarch. Then the one I remember from my childhood: salt, arrowroot, and water.
First up, I wanted to try re-creating the one I remember making somewhere in the neighborhood of *cough* 25 years ago . . . I used the recipe I found online as I don't know what happened to the recipe I used as a kid - at any rate, all I can remember of it is that it was flour-free and used arrowroot. The dough came out sticky and grainy, even though I ground down the salt to a fine powder. I kept kneading in more arrowroot, but just when I thought it was okay, it would get all sticky again. Not what I wanted. Sighed and threw it out.
I turned to the recipes online for both play dough and moon sand made with the same two ingredients: hair conditioner and cornstarch. I understand why conditioner + cornstarch would be so silky smooth, and hoped I could recreate the same texture (or close to it) with the lotion I make and arrowroot. Now, not wanting to waste perfectly good lotion, I took about 1/2 oz of the last batch I made and whisked in some arrowroot. Hmm. Used too much arrowroot; now we have moon sand. Nice, but not what I wanted. So, I thought . . . let's let arrowroot do its thing: add cold water, stir over medium heat, and let it thicken. And it worked! (This first attempt is the white blob of play dough in the center of the photo above.)
Now, if you already have lotion you feel comfortable using, please feel free to use your own. But if you want to control the ingredients used, here is the recipe I used. The oils I chose to use could be substituted by others - I chose them only because I had enough of both on hand I wouldn't feel bad if this play dough recipe didn't turn out!
Lotion base for playdough:
Making lotion is pretty easy. You have your water phase and your oil phase and need an emulsifier to bind them together. You'll need a double boiler (although a glass measuring jar placed into a skillet of water works just as well!) and having a stick/immersion blender makes the whole process much easier, too. The raw honey is optional - I just like it in there for raw honey's benefits. You'd also probably be fine without the stearic acid, but I find a mixture of emulsifiers is more stable long term for lotions than only one.
1/2 c. distilled water
1/2 tsp raw honey (optional)
1/2 Tbsp potassium sorbate (inhibits mold)
1 Tbsp emulsifying wax
1 tsp stearic acid (another emulsifier)
2 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp sweet almond oil
Up to 5 ml essential oils
a few drops of Vitamin E oil
Stir together the ingredients in the water phase in a small glass container; the raw honey will take awhile to disperse unless heated, so if you want the process to go faster, you can use the double boiler to gently heat the water phase. Place the oil phase ingredients in a larger (at least 2 c for space) glass container, and place that container in the double boiler. Stir over medium heat until all the wax is fully melted. Remove from double boiler and set on a heat-safe place. Give it a few whirs with the stick blender, then slowly pour in the water phase, using the mixer to fully incorporate. Then add your choice of EO's and the Vitamin E oil, stir again to fully incorporate. I used a combination of lavender and sweet orange EO's.
This recipe makes just over 6 ounces of lotion, which I separated in to 6 - 1 oz amounts so I could make 6 different colors of play dough.
To make the playdough:1 oz lotion
colorant of choice
6 Tbsp arrowroot
5 - 6 tsp cold water
There are a variety of ways to color your play dough: food coloring, mineral oxides, or natural liquids/powders from food sources.
If your colorant is concentrated liquid (food coloring), mix a few drops into the 1 oz of lotion before adding the arrowroot.
If your colorant is dry powder, mix it into 1 Tbsp of the arrowroot before adding it and the rest of the arrowroot to the lotion. I used the mineral oxides I have on hand for making cold process soap, at a ratio of 1/8 tsp dry colorant per 1 oz lotion.
Add 5 - 6 tsp cold water to the saucepan's contents and stir over medium heat. (You could also use cold food-colored water here.)
The moon sand consistency will give way to a frosting consistency.
Then it will get lumpy.
Keep stirring until all of it is stuck onto the whisk. Gently push it out of the whisk onto a plate - be careful, it's hot! You should probably let it cool before doing this step!
Once it's cool enough to handle, knead/roll it until smooth.
If you find the texture to be a little too dry, you can break it up into small pieces back into the saucepan. Add 1 - 2 tsp cold water and stir on medium heat until it all sticks to the whisk again.
And there you have it, kid-safe, silky smooth, DIY play dough with ingredients you can control! :)