When Arielle was two, we had a Play-Do party for her birthday. I covered the table with paper and Arielle and her guests had a wonderful time squooshing and mooshing dough, rolling it out and cutting it with cookie cutters. After the party, each guest took a container home. But, Play-Do stinks and has mysterious dyes and ingredients that can't be pronounced. It can't be good for you.
One option is to make your own dough.
1 cup flour
1 cup warm water ( I hear you can add Kool-Aid for color/scent, but that sounds messy)
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon oil
1/4 cup salt
Mix all ingredients, adding food coloring last. Stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from pan and knead until blended smooth. Place in plastic bag or airtight container when cooled. It will last for a long time.
Or maybe it will just last until you really need a quick distraction. Then you find out that the dough has gone moldy or that someone has left the bag open and it has dried out.
Or maybe, you are just busy or would rather play than cook dough.
Mary's Softdough is a soft, natural modeling dough made in Eugene, Oregon. It is made of flour, water, salt, cream of tartar, soybean oil, food coloring (all stuff we have at home) and sodium benzoate (a food preservative that keeps it from getting moldy). It lasts a year when stored properly and comes in a variety of pretty colors (even glitter! and glow in the dark) and yummy scents. Prices range from $2.95 (a small tub of a single color) to $18.50 (for a play set with 4 colors, a roller and cookie cutters).
We received six small tubs of Naturally Scented Softdough ($3.25 for a small tub) and a dough play set (roller an cookie cutters - all made in Oregon) from Terrapin Toys, the makers of Mary's Softdough. The dough is nothing like Play-Do. The scents are delicious, strong (but not overpowering), and actually smell like peppermint (red), oranges (orange), lemons (yellow), lavender (purple), vanilla (blue), or - Arielle's favorite - rose (pink). And the dough has a softer, squooshier (scientific term!) feel. Definitely a more pleasing sensory experience.
While the dough is intended for ages three and up, toddlers love dough. I let Linnea play with the lavender and peppermint dough specifically because it did not smell like food that she eats (rose would have been OK as well, but Arielle is possessive). Linnea, who no longer sits still for anything, spent a happy hour squishing and mashing the dough. She really enjoyed taking it in and out of the cup, flattening it, and poking holes with her fingers.
Arielle played for with it much longer - at least a few hours each day since the dough arrived! Chef Arielle enjoys rolling out pizzas and covering them with toppings. She also enjoyed cutting squirrels with the squirrel-shaped cookie cutter and making them nuts and acorns. She sat in one place, chattering away happily, while I cleaned dried oatmeal off highchairs. Yay!!!
Speaking of cleaning, clean-up was easy. Little crumbs swept right up, no problem.
Mary's Softdough is available directly from Terrapin Toys and from many other of our favorite retailers of natural toys. Mary let me know that she also has 2oz tubs with a cookie cutter inside available ($1.75 each) for party favors or maybe for stuffing next year's Easter Eggs. Hmmm....