In my former life, I used to run preschool centers. I've made lots of playdough. I've also bought lots of playdough---both generic and the Play Doh brand.
It's wonderful, it's now incredibly cheap, and it keeps your children entertained for hours.
But it's not gluten free. There are a few places online that sell gluten free playdough, but the dough can be expensive.
And making your own is fun. You can add texture by throwing in some cornmeal or playground sand, add drops of essential oil for smell, or even add a packet of sugar free Koolaid for a bright color and strong kid-approved smell.
Homemade playdough makes great gifts for the holidays or party favors. If you have a gluten free preschool-aged child, I would highly recommend being the "playdough mom" who brings in a new batch (or the storebought) each month into your child's class. That way everyone plays with the same stuff, so there isn't a worry of cross-contamination, and the teachers will adore you for bringing new stuff regularly. Trust me in that you do not want to know how gross playdough can get after a month or two in a preschool classroom. 20/20 should do a segment on playdough germs...
This is easy to make, and children can help without the worry of being burnt by standing near a hot stove.
I have bought all of this in bulk from Smart and Final or Costco---except for the rice flour. I get rice flour at an Asian grocery store for 59 cents a bag.
--2 cups rice flour (if you are not gluten free, use plain ol' All Purpose)
--1 cup corn starch
--1 cup salt
--1/4 cup cream of tartar
--2 cups hot water
--2 t cooking oil (not a typo! that's all the oil you need!)
--Plug in your crockpot and turn to low to warm up slowly.
--Dump in your dry ingredients, stirring to evenly distribute.
Set a timer and check your playdough every 30 minutes, stirring well each time. Our playdough took a little under 2 hours to make.
You will know it's done or close to done when the playdough begins to form a ball when you stir it.
When that happens, remove the stoneware insert from your crockpot and stir some more. Dump it out onto a smooth surface and begin to knead----be careful---- it's going to be hot. If your dough is overly sticky, add a bit of cornstarch; if overly dry, add a touch more hot water. Each time you make the dough, the water required will be a bit different, depending on the humidity in the air.
Separate the dough into manageable lumps and push a hole into the center for a few drops of food coloring--let the kids squish the dough around to distribute the desired color. Their hands will be a bit colored for a few hours...
We prepared this during a playdate, and the kids had a ball. In order for everybody to see clearly and to "help"--I spread a vinyl tablecloth on the floor and used a mini-extension cord for the crockpot.
This recipe makes enough dough for 4-5 children to play with at a time.
Store in a ziplock bag or a tightly sealed plastic container. If stored properly, the dough will last 3-4 months.