I don’t know if you’ve had the opportunity to work with Play-Doh lately, but my niece Mitra loooooves the stuff so I get to play with it all the time. It comes in all kinds of crazy colors these days- you can actually buy a pack that claims to have 50 different colors! Oh, and it smells disgusting.
I never knew about REAL Play-Doh as a kid, because my resourceful mom made my sisters and me play with homemade play-dough. It’s cheaper, it’s safe, it’s edible, and it’s great for people like me who don’t have too many toys in their house. It only takes a few minutes to make, and can even be composted afterwards (if you’re into that sort of thing.)
You don’t need the fancy toys and accessories either- you can find all kinds of great substitutes around the house. A garlic press was our personal favorite as kids. Plastic cookie cutters and rubber stamps are really fun as well. With littler kids, anything that makes a texture is fun and educational- a pot scrubber, a mesh strainer, etc.
To make play-dough: In a saucepan, combine 1 cup flour, 1 cup water, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon oil, and ¼ cup salt. Stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from pan and knead until blended. Store in a plastic bag or airtight container when cooled.
If you want to add colors, you can knead in food coloring pastes or liquids. It won’t be as vibrant as the store-bought stuff, and your hands will pick up the color when you mix it in. If you don’t want to risk blue hands, just let the kid mix it in!
> Related: A gallery of sculpting ideas from Play DOH