Thursday, April 12, 2012

The World's Greatest Play Dough

They wanted to do school. I wanted to play. Fortunately for me, we've used play dough as a school activity in the past. So I broke my We Only Play Play Dough Outside rule and pulled out the box of dough and tools to see if I could fool them. And that's when I discovered the tragedy that had befallen my beloved go-to activity.

I had The World's Greatest Play Dough. It never crumbled, never got sticky, never dried out (when stored properly) and it was uncolored, completely eliminating any argument over who-gets-what-color or any potential color mixing that might offend my very particular four-year-old.

I know it was The World's Greatest Play Dough, because I remember the day my mother-in-law made it for me from a recipe I spent months tracking down. I remember the day, because my youngest son had just been born and she was there to help with all the things a new mommy needs. In our case, that included whipping up a batch of play dough.

That was 17 months ago. And every time we used it, the stuff was still as good as the day she made it.

But someone had the audacity to mix my homemade play dough with that awful name brand stuff you buy in stores. And my play dough doesn't play well with others. It needs its own bag, separate from the colorful, sticky, crumbly stuff that comes in those little plastic jars. And when the twain shall meet, my play dough is ruined.

So we did the only thing we could. We begged some salt off our neighbor and mixed up a brand new, fresh-off-the-stove batch of The World's Greatest Play Dough. We scrubbed all the play dough tools to eliminate any traces of the old stuff that might contaminate our new batch. And then we "did school" (apparently). Jacob learned not to eat it. Caleb built a C-130. And Abby collected all the dropped pieces and redistributed them to ensure that all parties had an equal share.

Very educational, indeed.

And because you know you want some now, I present you with the very simple instructions for creating your own batch of...

The World's Greatest Play Dough

Mix together in a fairly large saucepan:
2 cups flour
1 cup salt (put in blender for 1-2 minutes and blend to fine powder)
4 tsp cream of tartar

In a separate bowl, mix together:
2 cups water
2 tbsp cooking oil

Pour liquids over dry ingredients and mix well. Stir constantly for about three minutes over medium heat.

The mixture will be ready when it pulls away from the side of the pan. It will still be lumpy (like mashed potatoes before liquid is added) but will look dry. Allow to cool for about five minutes.

Knead by hand until smooth. Add food coloring while kneading if desired. Store in sealed containers or ziploc bags.  Will keep for a long, long time if kept properly sealed, or can be left out to dry for a project.

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