Playtime: Fun with Cloud Dough

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If you have young children, you’ve likely spent more than one rainy afternoon cooking up homemade play dough.  But have you tried making cloud dough?  This newer concoction is quickly becoming a classic.  The malleable dough is silky smooth and, in large quantities, can be used to create a mini indoor sandbox.  It holds its shape well, and kids absolutely love running their fingers through the stuff, sometimes for unheard of amounts of time.

This activity requires a moderate amount of mess tolerance on your part — the best projects always do.  It’s a great sensory experience for even the youngest of toddlers and provides lots of open-ended opportunities for creativity in bigger kids.  Plus, the dough consists of only two ingredients, flour and oil, so it’s incredibly cheap and easy to make.

To begin, find a large plastic container (preferably one with a lid) to house the dough.  Add eight cups of flour.  Don’t miss the opportunity to get your kids involved in making the dough.  It’s a great way to extend the duration of the fun.

Try to keep the flour in a mound in order to facilitate easy mixing later on.

Next, add one cup of baby oil.  (Please note: baby oil can be harmful if ingested, so substitute canola oil if you have a child who likes to munch.  Of course, adult supervision is always recommended when playing with edible materials.)

Now comes the fun part, let the kids dig their hands in and mix to their heart’s content. After a minute or two the dough will still have a crumbly texture but it should also be able to hold a shape.  This recipe produces the perfect amount of dough for one child.  I would recommend doubling or even tripling the recipe for a group activity.  As long as you stick to a ratio of eight parts flour to one part oil, you can make as much or as little as you need.  (A huge trough of this stuff would be the perfect play station for an indoor beach party!)

As for how to play with your new dough, sand toys are the most obvious choice for tools.  Use shovels and buckets or store bought molds to create castles and other structures. Just as we like to make mud pies in the sandbox, the kids and I also like to “bake” with the cloud dough.  Use a combination of play utensils and the real things to create cakes, muffins, cookies and more.

Another favorite activity, especially for my three-year-old son, is to bring in small construction vehicles.  The cloud dough is perfect for scooping, plowing, and smoothing dough.

When you’re finished playing for the day, simply pile your tools into the container and secure the lid.  The dough will stay fresh for weeks when stored this way.

One last note on making cloud dough:  A few industrious parents have tried to color their dough with mixed results.  Using liquid food coloring causes clumping and does not evenly disperse.  Adding Kool-Aid or even Jell-O powder will provide some color, as well as a nice smell, but it takes no less than three packs per cup of dough to get even a light hue.  If you really want to enhance the look of your dough, your best bet is to use glitter.  It will distribute evenly and provides nice sparkle!

Photo Credits: Stephanie Morgan

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