Five playdough piles stacked on top of each other.

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Five playdough piles stacked on top of each other.

We finally watched the newest Pixar movie Inside Out last weekend, and I have to admit, it surpassed every bit of my expectations. We loved it so much in fact, that we are considering going to the movies a second time to watch it all over again after the 4th of July weekend.  The discussion after we walked out of the theater turned into a gazillion thoughts about our new favorite movie.  Each of us had our own favorite part.

The topic for the rest of the night (and the following days) quickly became all about emotions. So, I took the opportunity to expand on the topic of interest by asking them what their favorite part of the movie was, and why. What things in their lives make them feel angry, sad, happy, scared? It was the perfect set-up.  We talked up a book about feelings that day.

It got me thinking…we hardly talk about feelings anymore.

It’s our job as parents to teach them how to manage this complex part of life so that they don’t fall to pieces at the first sign of dissapointment all because they didn’t speak up for themselves. After watching the movie, I realized it’s been a long time since we dove into this topic. I found myself wondering what else we could do to reinforce the importance of understanding these emotions.

As luck would have it, a few days later, we went to Walmart for some groceries and other items we needed. While passing through the aisles, we found an Inside Out display on the main aisle across from the toys and bikes.  Both my son and daughter were ecstatic (as was I) to see all five plush main characters there: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust.  I knew this was the perfect opportunity to continue on the topic of feelings, so we brought our favorite three characters home with us. I’m still considering going back for the other two.

Simple Homemade Playdough 18.2Now, while my daughter has the heart of a saint with the ability to understand all this, my son is still learning how to interpret his and others’ feelings. One of the best tools to help with these kind of lessons during the preschool years is through the senses.  The senses awaken emotions in a different way that plain words can’t. Which is why it’s always good to change the approach we take in teaching children how to communicate. In this case, playdough can be a perfect tool to do just that.  It not only requires the use of strength and touch to manipulate the dough, but it creates opportunities in which children can engage in natural discussions with their peers.  Children want those connections, we just have to provide a setting that creates those opportunities.

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When searching for a playdough recipe, you’ll find that most recipes for homemade playdough are either cooked, or use cream of tartar.  When I first started working in the preschool classroom, I bought a jar of cream of tartar once for a playdough recipe.  After watching a more experienced Teacher whip up a batch in not time with flour, oil, water, and a ton of salt, I never bought cream of tartar again. It’s so simple to make.  I’ll show you.

Well, actually, my 7-year-old will.

Simple Homemade Playdough 4First combine the cornstarch and flour together.  As you can see, the measurements don’t have to be exact.  Just get them as close to the recipe as possible.

Simple Homemade Playdough 5You might have flour and cornstarch all over your kitchen counter, but don’t worry, it’s all for a good cause.  Your children are learning!

Simple Homemade Playdough 6Add the water.  I typically add the food coloring in with the water and mix, but when you have children in the kitchen, all rules go out the door.

Simple Homemade Playdough 7That’s one of the beauties about a playdough recipe that doesn’t have to be cooked.  Usually you can give or take a pinch or two of ingredients, or skip a step in the process, and it still comes out ok.

Simple Homemade Playdough 8Add the oil.  I also add this to the water with the food coloring, but obviously my 7-year-old had to change things up a bit.  It was a fun learning experience for her.

Simple Homemade Playdough 9After you’ve added all the wet ingredients and begin to stir it all together, it will start to clump up into a ball of dough.  Knead it well until it is soft, one color, and forms into a soft ball.

None of it will make any sense when you start because of the amount of flour that doesn’t stick at first, but trust me, it will all be right in the end.

Simple Homemade Playdough 11See!  A perfect ball of green dough.  If a 7-year-old can do it, so can you.

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To help reiterate the emotions, I printed images of each characters and had the plush dolls on the chairs next to us to use as models. We talked about their body positions, their eyes, the colors that represented each emotion, and even practiced saying the emotions in Spanish.

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We haven’t had this much fun with playdough in a while.  We typically crate more abstract and three-dimensional objects, so this was a nice change.  I encourage you to try it at home.  Watch the movie with your children.  Pick up a plush doll at Walmart, and go make some playdough to create the different emotions and their facial expressions.  Practice making the faces for fun, too!

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Simple Homemade Playdough 12.2

Have you seen the movie yet?  Who was your favorite character?

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Can’t make playdough today?  Pin the picture below on pinterest for later!

Simple Homemade Playdough Recipe 20Have fun!


Simple Homemade Playdough Recipe

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 1 cup
Author Stephanie Chavez


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • food coloring of your choice


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and cornstarch. Mix well.
  2. In a small bowl or medium cup, combine the water, food coloring, and oil. Mix well
  3. Add the colored water to the dough and stir until it begins to forma ball of dough. Turn out the dough with all the remaining flour onto a clean hard surface. Knead well until smooth.
  4. Store in an airtight container when not in use.

Recipe Notes

If the dough starts to get a little dry, rub a little bit of oil on it with your fingers and knead it again. Store in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap