There was a time in my life when I played with a LOT of play dough.So much play dough that those tiny store bought containers didn’t really do the job. They were small, the tops would crack and let air in making my play dough crusty and hard. And in foreign countries, they cost as much as a nice dinner out on the town, so I started making my own. It felt nicer and smelled nicer and you could make it all kinds of pretty colors. And when it all got lumped together into one big brownish ball, as it inevitably did, I could make a new batch without leaving the house, which was a huge advantage when I had three children under four years old.
The play doughing started with Firstborn Daughter, continued through One and Only Son and kicked into high gear once Baby Girl could join in too. Three young children and LOTS of play dough. We cooked up pretend food like we would never eat again.
By the time I had all three children, we lived in Melbourne, Australia in a magnificent old “gentlemen’s residence.” It was built before the turn of the century, when women preferred to live in the country and the men would have a “smallish” residence in the city where they lived during the work week. Our house had two large formal rooms at the front of the house for entertaining, beautiful high ceilings and moldings, and an enormous fireplace with a hand-carved mantel. Through a narrow hallway to lower ceilings, was the kitchen in the back. In recent years, an addition had been made to the kitchen of a comfortable solarium room, serving as a family room for us. Upstairs, there was two lovely large rooms at the front and up the back stairs were two tiny rooms, originally for staff and perfect for small children. It was well located in town, comfortable and attractive. But the best part was the art studio, otherwise known as the play dough kitchen.
Out the back of the kitchen and solarium, separated from the house by a nice garden was a small room that had originally been an art studio. It became the pretend kitchen for our pretend meals that were prepared from play dough. When we moved in, we collected all sorts of spoons and bowls and plates and pots and pans and anything else that could be used in the making of pretend meals. We put everything out in the studio with a child-sized table and chairs, bright children’s artwork on the walls and plenty of containers of play dough. My children LOVED to cook! It kept them entertained for hours with periodic visits into the kitchen to let me “taste” their latest conconction. My favorites were the tortillas filled with garden gravel and the always-delicious guacamole sandwiches. (We moved to Australia from Mexico so the menus often featured mexican fare.)
We only lived in that house for about two years after Baby Girl was born so the play dough kitchen was just a blip in our lives. But it was a blissful blip. It fills me with joy to remember those carefree days of play and imagination. I’m not sure who enjoyed playing in the kitchen more, my children or me.
4 cups flour 1 cup salt 8 tsp cream of tartar 4 cups water 4 T vegetable oil food coloring
In a large pot, mix flour, salt and cream of tartar. Add water and oil and cook over medium heat until mixture pulls away from the sides of the pot. Separate into numerous bowls to knead in food coloring until dough is smooth and color is evenly distributed. Store in plastic containers with air-tight lids. (Tupperware works perfectly)