Compostable Play Time

If your children are anything like mine you quickly discover that an hour of time can be carved out of any day by the introduction of a tub of play dough and a rolling pin.  Seriously, it’s an hour of quiet time to cook dinner or clean the house or whatever you need to get done.  Sure, I could turn on the television but that seems like the suburban cop out.

If you are like me you also probably wonder what the heck the commercial versions of play dough are made from.  According to Hasbro, the maker of the well-known Play-Doh brand:

the exact ingredients of PLAY-DOH compound are proprietary, so we cannot share them with you. We can tell you that it is primarily a mixture of water, salt and flour. It does NOT contain peanuts, peanut oil, or any milk byproducts. It DOES contain wheat.

PLAY-DOH compound is not a food item and is not intended to be eaten.

PLAY-DOH compound is non-toxic, non-irritating & non-allergenic except as noted: Children who are allergic to wheat gluten may have an allergic reaction to this product. Also, due to the high salt content in PLAY-DOH compound, the product can be harmful to pets if ingested.

There is no MSDS sheet required for PLAY-DOH compound.

Well, that makes me feel better.  Okay, maybe not.

Not only do I not know what is exactly in the product that my children will be kneading with their hands for an hour, I have no idea what I can do with the product at the end of its like other than throw it away.  I find that unacceptable.  I want to compost it like that couple from Portlandia wants to pickle that.

So, I spent part of the Christmas break searching out a recipe for play dough that produced a workable end product, contained nothing that was not a “food” ingredient, and could be composted.

Needless to say, the Internet is full of options.  Deferring to my sister-in-law, who spent the better part of four years working in a day care while pursuing her college degree, I decided on the following recipe:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp. cream of tarter
1 tbsp. oil
1 cups water

Pour all ingredients into a large pot. Stir constantly over medium heat until a dough ball forms by pulling away from the sides. Knead dough until the texture matches play dough (1-2 minutes). Store in plastic container. Should last for at least 3 months.

To add color I used a gel food coloring and added it during the kneading step.  The results were pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

Nothing in the ingredients is odd and, an added bonus, I had every ingredient in my pantry.  Sure, it may be the same ingredient set as what Hasbro uses in commercial Play-Doh but I actually know what is in my play dough.  I also have found that the smell of the homemade product is inoffensive compared with a somewhat odd smell for the commercial product.  Go figure.

By the way, it’s definitely compostable.  I do not know how a ball of dough is going to break down in the bin but I’ve got the time.  Dig it.

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