Talking about sustainability through play...dough

Talking about sustainability through play...dough

Play is one of the best ways to begin conversations with kids. Often, some of the most thoughtful and honest conversations I have with my girls start with an already planned activity. Sometimes its baking, or painting, or even just going for a walk. I think when our bodies are focused on something, it's easier for our minds to be open to connecting with one another.

Playdough has always been a hit in our house. Sure, we have some of the branded stuff, but we also love to make our own. It's super simple, uses ingredients you likely already have in your home, and only takes a few minutes to make. You do have to heat this one on the stove, but it's a great way to teach younger kids about kitchen safety, proper measuring techniques, and get them involved in the process start to finish.

Playdough ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup salt
  • 4 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil (coconut oil works too)
  • Food coloring, optional 
  • Repurposed containers

Add the flour, salt, and cream of tartar to a bowl and mix well with a fork. Pour this into a large pot. Add in the oil and the water and stir stir stir. If you're going to make one color for the whole batch, go ahead and add the color now too. Stir some more. Cook over medium heat while stirring constantly. It will feel like you're stirring forever, but I promise it will start to form a dough and come together. Turn the heat off and let it rest for a few minutes before turning it out onto a cutting board. Now you can separate it into sections and make different colors. Just add a few drops of food coloring to each section and knead away until it's a solid color. Store in an air-tight container (more on this below).

I'm sure you can already imagine one of the reasons I love making our own playdough is that it eliminates plastic packaging from the mix. Plus, it's always inevitable that someone doesn't close one of the lids entirely and next time you go to get the playdough out, it's all dried up.

This playdough recipe makes a ton that you can either leave plain or divide it up and make different colors. We like to use old pasta jars, empty spice jars, or any other empty air-tight containers to store the playdough.

Here are a few ways to incorporate sustainability into your homemade playdough activities:

  1. Use Natural Dyes: Instead of artificial food coloring, experiment with natural alternatives like fruits, vegetables, and spices to add color to your playdough. Beets, spinach, turmeric, and berries are excellent choices for creating fun colors - but these won't store long-term.

  2. Upcycle Materials: Encourage creativity and resourcefulness by using recycled materials as playdough tools and accessories. Empty cardboard tubes, bottle caps, and small containers can be repurposed into stampers, or molds.

  3. Talk About Sustainability: Use playdough time as an opportunity to have meaningful conversations about sustainability. You can talk about why you made your own - how you are reusing jars and repurposing other kitchen tools instead of buying playdough specific supplies. Talk about how you can make the same items have tons of different uses and how that impacts resources.



Playdough really is a timeless favorite that offers endless opportunities for eco-friendly fun and learning.

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