~ early education care ~ where our play supports our learning

Recipes, Techniques and Tips for Arts & Crafts Projects

This workshop is about sampling techniques that we can examine and discuss. Through comparing different mediums, doughs and exploring techniques you will gain ideas that will allow you to adapt projects to meet the needs of the children in your program.


Lets start with the basic cooked playdough recipe. This is a must for anyone who is actively involved with children. There are endless ways to adapt for your use and the cost savings is huge. Best reason though is the incredible learning opportunities when you make your own playdoughs. The ways to use are only as limited as your imaginations.

There are basically 2 recipes that are out there for cooked playdough

1. I have used this one since the 1960’s, when I remember making this with my mother.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 TBLSP alum (in the spice section)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 TBLSP oil
  • 2 Tblsp vanilla
  • food coloring as desired

Mix the dry ingredients in a large pot. Add oil and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it reaches the consistency of mashed potatoes. Remove from heat and then add vanilla. Mix in. Divide the dough into balls and work in the food coloring by kneading until you get a smooth dough.

This dough needs to be stored in an air tight container, but no need to refrigerate. It lasts longer than commercial playdough.

Scent can be added by adding essential oil with the food coloring.

The vanilla will make this dough a little brown, so colors are not vibrant.

2. Just put all the ingredients into a pot over med heat and stir until dough forms.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 Tbls. vegetable oil
  • food coloring (start with 4 drops)

Some recipes suggest mixing the liquids together. Heating them up slightly and then adding the dry. For all these recipes I put in the dry, add the oil and water, heat and mix all together. I add the scent and food coloring after removing from the heat.

Tried a suggestion to add fluorescent paint. I did that. I added the paint, but no scent, after removing from heat. Kneading it in a little at a time until color wanted was achieved. We have played with this dough on our light box, but I’m planning on getting a black light, so we can really have the ultimate fun.

Two major change-ups: Microwave and Gluten-Free

3. Microwave Playdough (I am loving this recipe. I make in half batches, especially when I want a special dough to go with a unit or for projects like dough monsters. With the half batches, each child can make their own – measuring, mixing and then kneading – 4 kids means 30 minutes start to finish.)

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1 Cup Salt
  • 1 Tablespoons Oil
  • 1 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
  • 2 Cups Water
  • Food coloring/Scent
Mix all ingredients in a large microwave safe bowl. Cover and cook med/high for about 5 min. (May need additional time – do 1 minute increments) Once the mixture has cooled, knead the dough, adding food color, until it becomes smooth and soft.
This recipe is great for kool-aid for color and scent – add as the food coloring.
This is also a cooked playdough that is stored airtight.
4. Gluten-Free options
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 TBLSP cream of tarter
  • 1 1/2 tsp oil
  • 1 cup hot water
  • food coloring
Combine the dry ingredients in a pot, then add the oil and water. Now cook on medium/low heat until the dough forms a ball, which happens fast. Do not over cook. Cool, then knead adding in color and scent.
Rice flour is easy to find around here in the regular grocery stores. This dough is really soft to the touch. I like using uncolored and adding spices to get different scents. I have found that the scent almost seems to get stronger as the dough is used.
  • 2 Cups Baking Soda (1 box)
  • 1 Cup Cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 Cups Water
  • Color (paint or food coloring)
  • Scents
5. Rubbery Playdough – or – Modeling Dough
  • baking soda – 2 cups
  • water – 1.5 cups
  • cornstarch – 1 cup

Mix all the ingredients together with a fork until the mixture is smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat until thick and smooth. Place the cooked mixture on waxed paper. Allow to cool and it’s ready to go

6. Here is a no-cook playdough recipe that is super easy to make. You need to refrigerate this dough when not in use. It only lasts for a few weeks.

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoons of cream of tartar
  • a half cup of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the oil & the hot water & mix vigorously until a smooth dough is formed.
This can be stored for several weeks in air-tight containers, or plastic food bags in the fridge.

7. Oatmeal Playdough:

  • flour – 1 cups
  • oatmeal – 2 cups
  • corn meal – 1/2 cup
  • water – 1 cup

Mix the flour and oatmeal together and slowly add cool water until you get the dough to form. This is when I add the corn meal starting with 1/2 cup. Sometimes I need to add up to 1 cup. The oatmeal dough is sticky and the cornmeal both dries and firms it up. It also adds a lot of texture.

This dough is not one to keep around long, but we do refrigerate it as use for about a good week. It’s a nice change up from all the smooth doughs we use.

~~Additional things you can add:

  • Packet of koolaid (Smells good and adds color)
  • Half packet of jello
  • Spice (such as pumpkin pie, cinnimon, cloves..ect)
  • Glitter
  • Coffee (used and dried)
  • oatmeal
  • add 4 herbal teabags to the water to give the dough color and scent

~~More additions. This type of playdough does not last as long, but is great fun.

  • a little dry rice
  • small dry pasta shapes
  • sand
  • fresh herbs – these will produce a great smell
  • flower petals
  • small flowers like daisies


Posting by others about using cooked playdoughs: Share and Remember,  Just for DaisyMessy Kids, Celiac FamilySouthern as Biscuits

Posting by others on no-cook playdoughs: Sun Hat & Wellie Boots

NutureStore has a free ebook on Playdough. I love the listing for how to change it up each week.

If you are still not comfortable with the idea of making your own playdough check out this video for making scented playdough.


Watercolor paint:

  • 3 TBLSP corn starch
  • 1-1/2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 3 TBLSP baking soda
  • 3 TBLSP white vinegar

Simply mix together all the ingredients. Pour into separate containers with lids for use & storage. Mix in a few drops of food coloring into each container to make different colors.

* a little extra here is the science – the reaction of baking soda and vinegar


Finger Paint:

How easy is this! Take 2 cups of any kind of flour you have, add COLD water until it forms a fairly smooth paste free of any big lumps. Now slowly add BOILING water, stirring constantly until it forms the right consistency. Add food coloring for an edible finger paint, or tempera paint.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • 2 cups water

In a small saucepan, mix together the corn flour and water. Add food coloring to get to desired color. Boil until mixture thickens, then allow to cool. Pour into lidded containers to store.

– – – – – – – – – – –

  • 1/2 cup of cornstarch OR 1 cup of Flour
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 cups of cold water
  • Food coloring
  • Pinch of Salt

Mix all of the ingredients, except the food coloring, together in a medium pan. Cook over a med/low heat, stirring the mixture until it is smooth and thick. Takes 10 minutes or so. It thickens quickly at the end. Once it has thickened turn the burner off and let it cool. After cooling divide the finger paint into separate storage containers and add food coloring. Make sure the lids are on tight while storing so it doesn’t dry out.

I like to keep it uncolored. We add coloring as needed as we use it. It’s easy to mix a few drops of food coloring into a small amount just before using. Can also do to really see the colors mixing if that is part of your lesson.

I like using cornstarch – seems smoother.

With my small group I usually make this in a half batch, so I don’t have to think about storing and using.

For storage I like to use a recycled ketchup bottle. It holds a full batch and can be squeezed out easily wherever it’s wanted.

– – – – — – – –  – —

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water

Mix above ingredients until smooth.

  • Add: 1 1/2 cups hot water

Bring to a boil, then over medium heat stir until thickness want. Remove from heat and cool. Add color anytime after removing from heat.

Coloring:  food coloring, tempera paint, or powdered tempera will work


For a non-messy, but very fun finger painting activity take your finger paint paper, place the paint on it and cover with a piece of waxed paper. Now you can finger paint without the messy fingers. There is still a tactile experience, but not a slimy, gooey one.  I love exposing the children to the slimy, gooey, but some children cannot take the sensation and will cut their experience off very quickly. I also want them to explore how the paint moves, colors mix, maybe writing letters, etc. The waxed paper allows for this.

If you are really thrifty 🙂 take the waxed paper and use it to print on other sheets of paper to be used for collage work.



Edible Paint –

  • 2 cups of corn flour ** might mean cornstarch if origin is UK. If it means corn flour can make your own by processing corn meal to a powder ** have not made this recipe, yet as we are using the fingerpaints.
  • 1 cup of cold water
  • 4.5 cups of boiling water
  • liquid food coloring

Mix the cornflour with the cold water and stir together. Pour in the boiling water and stir between each cup. It goes a really strange consistency but keep stirring and it turns into a wonderful custardy consistency. Then separate the mixture into different jars/boxes before adding your colors.


Shiny Paint –

This is a simple, low cost, non-toxic recipe that I’ve used for many years that children love the results from.

Take a few tablespoons of light corn syrup, add in food coloring, mix and you have a paint that usually dries shiny. If too thick can add a drop or two of water to thin.

If it is put on too heavy it doesn’t truly dry, but remains sticky. Most children get it spread out thin enough.
It is also fun to sprinkle glitter on.


What I especially like about this paint is the additional tactile experience the children get. This paint is thick and sticky. It goes onto the paper thick and sticky. That means a different kind of pulling sensation as the children are brushing this on.


Great example of using for Easter eggs can be found at candice ashment art. She takes it a step farther with her tutorial on “sugar painting”. This activity is a good one to involve older children as it involves drawing with ball-point pens.


From Stickers to Chalk:
This is one of my go to sites when I need a safe craft recipe: Planetpals Craft Page


Crayons –

1) I love using crayons for so many projects other than just coloring. We shave crayons and melt with an iron between wax paper to make stained glass windows or sun catchers. I also shave them, place a leaf over, then paper to iron out and you can get some interesting leaf prints.

2) We take all those odds and ends and remelt into shape crayons.

3) The problem with shaving or melting pieces is getting the paper off easily. It’s SIMPLE – place the paper wrapped crayons in a container of cold water. Let them sit a short while. The papers will peel right off. If not, soak a little longer. I haven’t found a crayon this does not work on yet.

4) Using an electric griddle you can place you paper down and draw with the crayons. You get a melted wax painting. I will sometimes cover the griddle with foil. I also have used an electric fry pan. This I cover with foil and have to be a little more careful so no burns happen (one on one project).

Teach Preschool uses a candle warmer. Much smaller surface.

MaryAnn Kohl uses a warmed plate.

5) Another fun melting crayon project is to glue crayons onto a canvas/background and hit them with heat from a hair dryer or heat gun. If the background is lifted up the crayons melt running down the background.  Example: apartment therapy   There are many examples of this project on-line. Have even seen done in a circle.

6) Take a bunch of crayons, group together and color away. Many have done this with elastics, but I don’t like elastics in my space because of all the little hands that find their way to the mouth. So, I cut a toilet paper tube in half and fill it with crayons.    The children hold it tight in their fists and that also helps keep the crayons in place.  




 Homemade glitter is easy to make and works really well for most projects. (Does not work in snow globes – salt dissolves!)

1) Blend 1/2 tsp food coloring into 1/4 cup salt until color is evenly disbursed. Bake on foil lined baking sheet/pan for 10 minutes at 350. Cool completely before using. Store airtight for multiple weeks.

2) Take amount of salt equal to glitter need, mix in food coloring until color desired is achieved. (Kids love to mix by shaking and squishing in a plastic bag.) Add in edible cake dust – silver works best. There is no set limit – start small and add to get look you want.

Now can spread out to air dry, which is pretty quick or bake in 375 oven about 10 min. This is just about drying out the liquid from the food coloring. Store air tight container.


Sidewalk chalk: In a bowl, mix together 1/3 cup quick-setting plaster of paris, 1 tablespoon of powdered paint for color, and 3 tablespoons water. Quickly spoon mixture into soap or candy molds (from a craft store), or into cookie cutters set on wax paper. Tap to remove air bubbles. Allow to dry for 45 minutes, then carefully remove from mold or cookie cutters.


Two ways to make stickers –

Lick Stickers:

  • 2 TBLSP cold water
  • 1 packet plain gelatin
  • 3 TBLSP boiling water
  • 1/2 TBLSP light corn syrup
  • flavored extract

Pour the cold water into a bowl and sprinkle 1 packet of plain gelatin over it. Whisk in the boiling water until gelatin is dissolved. Add the corn syrup and if desired, a few drops of flavored extract for taste. Ready to use.

Apply a thin layer of this solution to the back of whatever you want to make into a “sticker”.  Let it completely dry, and there you have it – simply lick and stick! 


This is so easy and the child have no issue with licking. I’ve been pleased with how well the papers stick down. 

This is what I do for all those odd little pieces of paper from our own painted textured papers to scrapbook papers.


Peel and Stick: 

I saw this idea for peel and stick wall decals at Gluesticks. I immediately thought I could do this with the textured papers we make by the bunch, from scribble papers (we also make by the bunch) and some of those odd pieces of scrapbook paper I have.  I saw us using for making collages, pictures from our shape studies, building letters……..

How simple to cut like we would for any paper and peel rather than glue.

Also like that I could use up the odd piece of contact paper or get those really ugly ones from the dollar store. Also like that I am now not limited to shape or size for peel and stick pieces.

I have tried with both the homemade mod podge  and the store bought. Must say I like the store bought better here. (Reminder always buy with those coupons. Whenever I’m running low I make sure to stop by a local craft store with coupon in hand.)


This provides a different material than the lick and stick, but can be harder or more frustrating for children to work with. Catching the edge to peel off can be frustrating, but great fine motor work.


Tissue Paper –

1) Printing: We don’t often think to print on a medium as little as tissue paper, but children really enjoy it. It just like printing on any surface.

Our favorite is to use our homemade recycled stamps and print on tissue paper that can be used for background on other projects like an underwater seascape, sunset behind trees, grass for bugs….These stamps  were used to get  this underwater printing 

Others that do this activity will often make wrapping paper this way.

2) Textured Paper: We are always working to get texture into our projects. I personally think it adds life to what can be simple projects for children. A simple way to get a textured piece with dimension is to take recycled cardboard (cereal boxes work well) and cover with tissue paper. Now this doesn’t seem like much fun, but there are a few additional steps.

  • Start by crinkling you tissue paper into as small a ball as possible. Squeeze it, bunch it, pinch it, roll it. The more crinkled it is the better. This can actually be hard for young hands to do, so I model and help until they get the idea.
  • Spread homemade mod podge (equal amounts of white glue and water mixed well) on recycled cardboard like cereal boxes. Be sure the plain side is the one you are working with or all the images/writing will show through when done.
  • Lay down your crumpled tissue paper. spread it out some to cover the cardboard, but you want the wrinkles/crinkles.
  • I now paint on another layer of mod podge. The paper might move, tear, whatever. Just be sure to cover all the cardboard. I show the children how to push down with the brushes for this step, rather than a sweeping motion. It’s about getting the tissue paper into the glue. all the paper needs to be wet.
  • Set aside to dry.
  • I am usually using up white tissue paper from gifts for this process, so I now like to paint over with tempera paint. You can thin the paint down for a different look, or leave natural for the color of the tissue paper to show.

Once dry this can be further embellished by rubbing crayons, oil pastels, paints over the piece.  These colors will be picked up on the raised ridges. You can stamp, use markers, glue on items. Your imagination is the limit here.

I originally saw this at Artangel.


We like making these cardboard pieces to frame out and use to display a special piece like a handprint heart, silhouette, or as covers for journals or books.


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