d.i.y. playdough

Science Experiment: Fun with D.I.Y. Playdough

Homemade Playdough and the Science Behind It


There are so many things in our every day life that can be used for teaching : playdough included! Not only can playdough be used for sensory play and art with youngsters but we can delve into the science of homemade playdough.  First I’ll go over my go to homemade playdough recipe, and then I’ll discuss some scientific points you can elaborate on.

This recipe is pretty easy to use and your youngsters will like helping you make it…or like helping make a mess at least. Most of the ingredients can probably be found in your pantry already:

homemade playdough ingredients


  • 1 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 1/3 cup Salt
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 tbs Vegetable Oil
  • Food coloring


  1. Mix together all your ingredients in a saucepan.
  2. Cook over low/medium heat. (It will start out runny and thicken as it is cooked.)
  3. Stir and keep stirring until playdough thickens to a soft playdough consistency. (Usually takes a few minutes- you could speed this up by adding boiling water rather than water straight from the tap but this obviously would not be as safe if younger ones are helping you mix your ingredients)








4. Remove dough from saucepan and place on wax paper or plate/tray and allow to cool.

5. Once cooled, give playdough a good knead to smooth out any lumps – or just pass it off to your little one to smoosh it up real good.

6. Store in ziplock baggies or plastic containers once completely cooled.

Extra tips

I like that I’m saving money by not buying premade playdough, which leads me to not stressing when they want to mix all the colors together into a greenish brown blob. I also like knowing what all goes into the playdough. I have never had an issue with the food dye staining my hands either –  I also like to make ours more of a pastel color so I only add a few drops to each batch. Mixing primary colors to make secondary colors is also an opportunity for learning. I either seal the playdough up in baggies or plastic storage containers to keep them from drying out. As long as no one licked their playdough ice cream cone etc. then it’ll last quite a while. Sometimes if it dries out then it may form some salt crystals on the top but I can either work it back in or just take off the dried out part and voila – good as new!  By including your children in the production process they can have a more hands on understanding of the science of playdough. Which leads me to:

The Science of Playdough

In our playdough recipe we have our dry ingredients (flour, salt, cream of tartar) that are physically combined in a mixture. A mixture is formed when two or more substances are combined in a way that each substance retains its own chemical identity. No chemical bonds are broken or formed. Once our liquid ingredients are added (water, vegetable oil) we now have a solution. A solution is a mixture of two or more substances.  Solutions consist of a solute (flour, salt, cream of tartar) and a solvent (water, vegetable oil). The solute is dissolved in the solvent. Once we add heat to our solution a chemical change, also known as a chemical reaction,  starts to occur. In  a chemical reaction one or more substances are altered into one or more new substances. Chemical reactions are taking place causing atoms and molecules to be arranged differently, creating this new substance: our playdough. Some other examples of chemical changes are:

  • cooking an egg
  • combining baking soda and vinegar (d.i.y. volcanoes!)
  • burning a candle
  • Digesting food
  • photosynthesis
  • oxidation (rusting)

The list goes on, see if you and your little one can think of an example of a chemical change. This may also be a good time to discuss what a physical change is (breaking glass, shredding paper, melting ice for example) vs a chemical change. Physical changes include a change in shape, state of matter, temperature, and texture. A physical change is reversible and does not produce a new substance, whereas chemical changes are not reversible and produce a new substance.

I hope you have fun making and playing with your playdough science experiments!

Additional Art Projects:

Art Class: Clay. Polymer and Air Dry Clay and Why Art is Important.

DIY Dollhouse

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