what to do when you don’t have play dough

Our kindergartener came home with a teeny tiny container of Play Dough last Thursday. One of those containers that does not hold enough for two kids to share. Our three-year-old whined and pleaded for Play Dough. He didn’t take “We don’t have any” for an answer. But we didn’t have any.

Not a convenient thing to discover at meltdown-o-clock (a term borrowed from Deb at Smitten Kitchen). So I got the wild rice simmering and pulled out a recipe for play clay that I’d tucked away years earlier – when I thought it might be a good thing to keep in a teacher’s or aunt’s bag of tricks. I scanned the list of ingredients and found that we had everything on hand in sufficient quantities to solve the Play Dough crisis. It helped that we only needed three things, one of them being water.

So I whipped some up play clay between chopping vegetables. Moms are multi-taskers. Moms are problem solvers. This is what we do. The play clay was done in under 15 minutes, but then we had to let it cool. Still, it was ready to use before dinner. And it bought 15 minutes of peace right then, plus more in the following days. A good investment.

Here’s what I did:

In a saucepan, mix together a one-pound box of baking soda and one cup of corn starch. Add 1 1/4 cups of water, along with a few drops of food coloring if you like. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until it’s the consistency of firm mashed potatoes. It may seem rather soft, but it thickens up more as it cools. Form the dough into a ball, place it on a plate and cover it with a damp cloth as it cools.

Once it was cool enough for kids to handle, I pulled out cutting boards, the rolling pin, cookie cutters and a small spatula. The real Play Dough was traded in for a larger quantity of the homemade substitute. My two boys got busy creating. It was quiet.

We’ve used the dough every day since I’ve made it. It keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge. If your kids use it for an hour, their hands and their ‘tools’ will be coated with a thin layer of the stuff, but it washes off easily.

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