Spring in New England is famous for its ever-changing weather. Now that we're beginning to feel like summer truly is going to come this year, we're thinking more about picnics at the lake, the first summer berries, and ice cream at the Udder Delight on a hot afternoon.

But one thing we know is coming, though we never seem to plan for until it actually hits us, is the summer rainy day.

I'm sure like me, you've loved the few rainy days of summer. It's a chance to cuddle up in the house with a good book, make some soup, or bake some cookies while the heat is at bay. I can still feel the happiness of pulling out my favorite worn sweatshirt (going on 20 years old, that thing) just for one day of its fuzzy goodness.

As much as we adults welcome the change, there's one group out there who doesn't see a rainy day as escape, but rather Mother Nature's torture test. Who could it be, you ask? It's kids. Especially when they begin to realize summer is a fleeting time, with fall and winter looming behind every cloud. They want to be outside climbing, running, swimming, DOING!

Does this sound familiar to you? You spend a whole morning setting up an indoor golf course, or a sofa pillow tent, only to hear "I'm bored" before lunchtime arrives. (I cured that particular vice by firmly stating that anyone who declared "I'm bored" could always do chores.) But what can we as parents add to our bag of tricks before the next rainy day hits that will entertain our children (and us) without more than a handful of ingredients and 5 minutes of prep time?

It's PLAYDOUGH!  Not the Play-Doh in a yellow can, but homemade playdough that you and your kids can make together in a rainbow of colors and scents. There are only five ingredients to the dough (not including colors and scents), and only one bowl is needed. Talk about your easy, kid-pleasin' project!

For this project, I was lucky enough to work with a lovely young lady named Shivani. Shivani's dad works with our Web team, and during one trip to our offices brought his family along from South Carolina. Shivani's mom and brother cooked with PJ, and Shivani and I played with playdough and had a delightful time. She proved to be a little camera shy, so you will only see her hands, but take it from me, this girl has beautiful eyes and and a truly charming smile!

Follow along with our Homemade Playdough recipe.

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In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and cream of tartar. Be sure to press out any lumps of salt with your fingers. For this recipe, I used half table salt and half kosher salt.

Using table salt will produce a smoother playdough, while using kosher salt adds a little sparkle to the dough, as the salt doesn't completely dissolve into the dough. Either is fine for the recipe in whatever proportion you choose.

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Add the hot water, and mix well. If you're making all one scent, or all one color, you can add those now. If you're making several, you'll add those later.

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Mix and knead the dough for 5 minutes or so, until it's smooth. This is a job for the adults; the dough will be hot.

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Ah, soft and smooth, and just barely warm to the touch.

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Time for some groovy scents. Citrus scents are said to be uplifting and enhance happiness, so we chose lime and orange and Fiori di Sicilia for our two doughs. Just a few drops is plenty. You could also use extracts, or essential oils.  If your children are younger and you worry about "nibbling" you can leave the scents out. The dough is very salty, and one taste usually does the trick. Blechh!

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Time for COLOR, and lots of it. Playdough is like Halloween. No time for subtle colors. Our food colors are great for this project. Keep in mind the dough is creamy, even a little yellow to begin with, so that will affect the final color. Gloves will keep the color in the dough, and off of you.

Also, our food colors produce more realistic looking, softer colors. While not necessary, you may want to store them in the fridge, for the best shelf life.

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If you prefer a more marbleized look, don't knead the color in completely. It will be fun to make globes, marbles etc. As you play with the dough the color will become more uniform.

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To make flat ornaments, roll the dough out and use your favorite cookie cutters. Use plenty of extra flour to prevent sticking. A drinking straw is excellent for cutting a hanging hole.

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With a few pinches, and well-placed squeezes, you can make all kinds of sculptures. Rainy days are good weather for ducks, eh?

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April showers bring May flowers. Shivani designed this colorful daisy, and used a fork to add texture to the petals. Thanks to the oils we used, it even smelled great!

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If your dough starts to dry out, just knead it vigorously for a few moments, and it will soften right up.

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Watch as inspiration hits. First the pink ball, then the pink and yellow ball. Hey, that looks a lot like...

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Easter eggs!

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A few more pinches, and you've got a nest.

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How many things can you do with a fork? Well, plenty!

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Stripes...

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...zigzags...

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spots, holes, waffles, dots,

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How 'bout the other end?

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Scales! Bring on the snakes, fishes, and turtles.

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Don't just poke, try drawing in the dough. A great way to practice letters and numbers.

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Another great way to practice letters and numbers. Perfect for young writers trying to grasp "b" versus "d."

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Shivani and I were curious as to whether the dough would stick to windows. Yep, it does. I'm guessing it would stick to mirrors and bathtubs while it was still soft. What a great way to make a mural on the bathtub wall with nearly no mess.

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If you're wondering just what tools we used, this is it. Nothing too fancy, just everyday tools from the cupboards.

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Quite the collection we made on our rainy day, with plenty of dough left over for tomorrow's adventures. Shivani and I spent a great afternoon getting to know each other and though she didn't want her picture taken, she did leave us with a smile.

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Happy rainy day fun to you!

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Homemade Playdough.

MaryJane Robbins
The Author

About MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team the following year. MJ loves to create decorated cookies for the catalogue, and blog about all kinds of foods, especially sweet treats.

View all posts by MaryJane Robbins