Expert parenting advice (a playdough recipe)

In real life I would do anything rather than offer advice about parenting. Oh, I don’t know! I say jovially, trying to look both supportive and non judgemental and totally bloody clueless in the parenting domain. But the thing is, underneath that I am a seething mess of advice! I feel like a complete expert when it comes to having children! I have opinions on everything! The right opinions!

Anyway offering advice – not sure if this is a British thing or just the same the world over – its riskier in person. If the advisee decides to take a route not suggested by the adviser then it’s just terribly awkward for all involved, right?

But – luckily for you – a blog is completely different! I can offer up advice like no one else! I can drone on and on about how to entertain / feed / wean babies and children / how to decorate your house / what to wear / what to cook and feel totally free from these usual worries. A lightbulb moment for me.

So, in that vein, here is my first major tip for looking after the under 3s and feeling smug whilst you do it: homemade play dough! I know this is nothing new but really, they love making it, it keeps forever, no additives so even less worry about your 18month old trying to eat it (plus it tastes so disgusting there’s no chance it will be devoured), and endlessly adaptable for games given different accessories – baking tins, cut up drinking straws, garlic press, little buttons and sequins, scissors, plastic knives and forks, potato mashers, rolling pins, classic cutters, pretty much anything in the kitchen!

I have tried about four million recipes for cooked and no-cooked play dough and this is the best by far…


1 cup plain flour

1/2 cup salt

2 tablespoons cream of tartar

2 tablespoons vegetable / canola oil

1 cup water with food colouring added

1tbsp vanilla essence (so your 4 year old doesn’t complain that it smells weird)


Add all the ingredients to a saucepan. Stir over a medium heat until some of the edge bits start to change colour/ look a bit darker and the mixture seems to glomp together a bit. Remove from heat and knead until smooth.

If you over cook it, it will be crumbly – this has happened to me once so I am now a little more cautious and take it off earlier than I would expect to – it continues cooking and firming up off the heat while you knead it, and if by any chance you feel like it’s too sticky then you just pop it back on the heat for a moment.

Pop it in a ziplock bag in the fridge to store and feel very smug about what a great parent you are. You make your own play dough for goodness’ sake!

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