Like most great inventions, the history behind the contraption is quite the interesting tale, almost as fascinating as the outcome. The infamous playdough is no exception.
Playdough has become quite the household necessity for anyone in the hands of a human 10 years and under. There are entire YouTube channels devoted to this clay-like confection, for goodness sake. And for good reason, playdough is a great, fun, clean way to engage fine and gross motor skills while engaging almost every sense.
So, how and why did we all get to be such Playdough fanatics?
Playdough: the ultimate in Coal cleaning
It all started in Cincinatti, Ohio in the 1930’s when a man by the name of Noah McVicker was asked by Kroger Grocery to create a special product that could clean coal-residue from wallpaper. Remember, home heating back then was almost exclusively powered by coal and most homes had paper wallpaper– a messy mix. The putty product did well, lifting dark stains from wallpapers, until the end of World War II, when most home heating switched to natural gas and there was the creation of vinyl wallpapers, which were much easier to clean and maintain.
Noah McVicker and his company were at the edge of bankruptcy when the brilliance of his nephew, Joe McVicker saved them. Joe had a friend who taught children and had read about using the putty as a clay-like school activity. So, what’s a person to do with hundreds and hundreds of jars of coal-removing putty? Turn it into a kid’s toy, of course.
In 1956, Joe went to an educational convention in Washington DC to present Play-doh and was immediately received with applause. Teachers loved the idea of it’s flexibility and color and parents loved it’s mess-free quality. By 1958, sales reached $3 million and in 1964 Play-doh was exported internationally to Britain, France, and Italy.
After 60 years, playdough remains one of the oldest and most used materials in kids play and education.
Make your own playdough!
Now that you know the history, why not do a little experimenting yourself and make your own playdough! Playdough is simple to make, there are millions of recipes, and the possibilities for color and scent are infinite. Here below you’ll find one of our tried and true favorite playdough recipe..
Basic ingredient ratios:
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity)
food coloring (liquid, powder, or unsweetened Kool-Aid or similar drink mix)
1. Mix all of the ingredients together, and stir over low heat. The dough will begin to thicken until it resembles mashed potatoes.
IMPORTANT NOTE: if your playdough is still sticky, you simply need to cook it longer!
2. Keep stirring and cooking until the dough is dry and feels like playdough.
3. When the dough pulls away from the sides and clumps in the center, remove the pan from heat and allow the dough to cool enough to handle.
4. Put the dough on a clean counter or mat. Knead vigorously until it becomes silky-smooth.
5. Divide the dough into balls for coloring.
6. Make a divot in the center of the ball, and drop some food coloring in. Fold the dough over, working the food color through the body of the playdough, trying to keep the raw dye away from your hands and the counter. You could use gloves, a big ziplock bag, or plastic wrap at this stage to keep your hands clean.
7. Work the dye through, adding more as necessary to get the color you want.
8. Enjoy your newest creation!
9. To preserve, wrap in plastic or keep in a glass jar with lid closed.
Hundreds of activities!
For 500+ playdough recipes, activities, and printables visit out Pinterest Playdough board here!