Thursday, November 6, 2014

Play. Taste. Smell. Why You Should Make Your Own Play Dough (plus its easy!)

After an extended summer hiatus:  some big changes to Non-Toxic Munchkin!  

First of all:  we moved!   About a month ago we packed up and moved cross country to Los Angeles (specifically, Santa Monica).  We are loving our new home and are excited to see Non-Toxic Munchkin expand as we start our home consultations locally ( read more on home consultations!). 

As we settle in, the posts might be a bit spread out but soon enough we will be back to our weekly posts - promise.

In the meantime here is a super easy (and I mean SUPER EASY:  much easier than gettig the kids in the car and driving to the store !)  recipe for homemade, all natural, play dough.   


Play dough.  Every child loves it.  Few things capture the attention of toddlers and young children, while stimulating their senses and creativity, like play dough does.  Have you ever wondered what its made of?

Most companys guard their playdough recipes, however the patent for Hasbro’s ‘starch based modelling compound’ (ie: playdoh) does mention, in general terms, the ingredients used.  The good news is that most ingredients are harmless ( salt, flour, water and oil). However, there are a couple of ingredients that, although used in very small amounts, are pretty bad.

According to Patent US6713624, the preservative used (which, is specified, makes up 1% of the recipe) “ can be selected from calcium propionate, sodium benzoate, methyl paraben, ethyl paraben, butyl paraben, and borax.”  Fragrance are also used in small amounts.  

Let's start with parabens.  Parabens are common preservatives, that avoid the growth of bacteria, yeast and mold, found in most beauty products.  Studies have found the presence of paraben esters in 99 percent of breast cancer tissues sampled. They are endocrine disruptors that imitate estrogen.  Butylparaben is banned in Denmark. 

Borax:  this is a salt of boric acid.  It is used as an antifungal in playdoh.  Borax can be used in homemade cleaning products, yet it is Borax is banned in the U.S. as a food additive.  Many people say that Boric Acid is safe, since it is actually found -naturally- in many fruits.  However:  fruits go moldy pretty quickly.  Play doh does not.  Thus, I suspect that the amounts of this chemical used in playdoh are probably higher than those found in nature.  Constant exposure to boric acid can cause sexual development problems, infertility and liver or kidney damage.  

Fragrance.  Play dough you make at home smells like nothing.  Playdough you buy in the store has a distinct smell.  That is the added fragrance,  Now a days, you can also find all sorts of artifically smelling playdoughs too.   The chemical that binds the fragrance to the dough are pthlalates.   Phthalates .  These are bad.  They have been linked to : infertility, decreased sperm count, undescended testes, malformation of the penis

Overall, considering the ingredients and the percentage of the potentially toxic ingredients used, playdoh is not THAT bad.  I feel comfortable letting my 4 year old play with store bought playdoh on ocasion ( as long as it is not the 'special smelling' type).   However, with younger children who enjoy eating it I dont feel as comfortable....


Does this sound familiar?:
My 17 month old munchkin LOVES playing and exploring through art..... it is the only activity that will capture his attention for 20 -30 minutes straight.   Lately, with the move and all, I have been -admittedly- lax on what art supplies I have available at home.   Case in point:  two days ago I caught him playing and TASTING my older son’s Playdoh that he received Trick or Treating.   Natural and non-toxic?  Nope.   I suspect it was bought at a Dollar Store or party store.  

Last week? In a split second little munchkin decided to grab my older munchkin’s paint brush (with black tempra paint) and take a taste.

The reality is that although lots of play dough’s say they are for ages 3+, most younger toddlers love playing and, yes, tasting it.  It is actually a great learning tool for them, and they SHOULD be allowed to explore and even taste it, since that is how a lot of toddlers learn.  So why be stressed about certain ingredients in play dough? 

There are non-toxic play dough options available for purchase, but, making your own play dough is not only quicker than driving to the store, it is cheaper and a (super easy) activity in itself. Plus, most people have all the ingredients in their kitchens!

Here is today’s recipe


2 cup white flour
1 cup salt
2 cups water
2 tablespoon creme of tartar
1 tablespoon oil
food coloring (or herbs like tumeric for orange color or mustard powder for yellow) 

Mix all ingredients in a pan and mix well as you cook over medium heat.  The dough will clump up and become really difficult to stir.  Turn off heat and when it has cooled off enough to handle, continue kneading by hand until smooth.  Store in an airtight container or ziplock bag. has another interesting play dough recipe for salt free edible peanut butter play dough.  I have yet to try it but it looks interesting (but very goey?)

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 cup flour

Add these three ingredients and slowly add hot water while you work into a dough.