Gluten free playdough. Not something you’d probably even think about if you didn’t have gluten issues in your home. But for those who are really sensitive to gluten, even gluten in playdough can be an issue. That’s why I’m excited to share my gluten free playdough today.
Why gluten free playdough?
If you’re sensitive to gluten, you are probably used to checking for gluten in unexpected places. I remember my first year gluten free…not only did I have to learn to read food labels very carefully, I also discovered that gluten was lurking in many unexpected places. Lip gloss? Yipes! Envelope glue…who knew? And, sadly, play dough. Kids who are gluten free have to be careful with traditional play doughs, even though they don’t (usually) eat it. For a gluten sensitive child, even the amount of gluten on their hands after playing with play dough can make them sick. And for kids with wheat allergies, play dough residue can be a serious problem! Luckily, there are alternatives to store-bought play dough. If you make it at home, you know that it’s not only free of wheat and gluten, but also free of other substances you’d rather your child not have on his or her hands. And, since we all know how very tempting a cookie made of play dough can be, you can also rest easy knowing that it’s not going to be a problem, even if it does some how end up in their mouth.
Traditional, store-bought play dough compounds contain more than just wheat…they often also contain chemicals such as retrogradation inhibitors, preservatives, binders, borax, and petroleum based additives. Again, we all know that the play dough is supposed to stay on the table and not go in the mouth…but why play with these chemicals when you could make it at home with just three simple ingredients? All you need to make natural, chemical free, homemade gluten free playdough is salt, corn starch and water. That’s it! And, if you’d like to make yours colored, try using some all natural, vegetable-based food coloring. Why not add a little lavender essential oil to the play dough, and benefit from its calming effects?
An added bonus to homemade play dough is that it’s a lot of fun to make together. Kids can help measure the ingredients, watch you heat them on the stove, and then knead it once it cools down a little. Kneading the warm dough is a very calming activity, which makes this a wonderful thing to do on a rainy day…nothing calms down cabin fever faster than a creative project that’s both tactile and kinesthetic.
How to make your gluten free playdough:
To make the play dough, just mix the salt and corn starch together in a pan. This is a great job for a child to do!
Now, add some cold water. We used plant-based food color in our water, it works best if you mix the water and color first!
Stir the water into the corn starch and salt until they are well combined. Then, heat the mixture on medium heat and stir constantly until it becomes thick and dough-like. It doesn’t take long! An adult needs to do this step, it’s hot and the dough will get thick on the bottom first and it’s a little hard to stir.
When it’s thick, turn the dough out onto the table and let it cool off for a few minutes. When it’s cooled off enough not to burn, have your child knead the dough! The warmth in their hands has a wonderful calming effect. Once it’s kneaded, you’re ready to create whatever you’d like!
Keep the dough in an airtight container (I like to use a zip-lock bag flattened out so that there’s very little air in it). It will be ready to play with for days to come!
- Pour the salt and the corn starch into a pan.
- If you are using food coloring and/or essential oil, mix a few drops into the cold water.
- Add the cold water to the corn starch and salt, and mix well.
- Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken, starting at the bottom of the pan. Scrape the pan as you stir.
- When the play dough becomes very thick, take it off the heat and turn it onto the table or counter. Allow it to cool until you can handle it, then have your child knead the warm play dough until it's smooth and pliable.
- When you're finished playing with it, store it in an airtight container (I use a zip lock bag, and press all the air out of it).
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Have you thought to check the gluten and chemical content of things you don’t eat but play with…like play dough, make up and craft items?