Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dirt Play Dough Recipe

Rather than throw away my preschool class' batch of Chocolate Play Dough which has lost most of its scent and is starting to crumble, my students and I chose to reuse and transform it.  In fact, I have discovered that Chocolate Dough easily becomes Dirt Dough with the addition of a few choice props.  This pliable homemade medium still promotes strong fine motor skills and open-ended play opportunities, but now instead of a chocolate shop, the children are inspired to create many dirt related situations.

So far, my son, my four and five year old students, and I have come up with these Dirt Dough Scenarios:

  • Garden:  add small plastic vegetables, wooden popsicle sticks or tongue depressors, small shovels, gardening gloves, laminated seed packets, and seed catalogs
  • Flower Shop:  add plastic flowers, small pots, flower shaped cookie cutters or rollers, ticket books, a telephone, and a cash register
  • Construction Site:  add construction vehicles and rocks

Exploring Dirt Play Dough with my son and my students has reminded me that one of the reasons I went into teaching is because I love to learn.  I remember in college a professor telling us that good teachers created life-long learners in their students.  What he didn't share was that teachers also become life-long learners as they are continually inspired by their students and fellow teachers.  I never cease to be amazed how my own children and my students can take something like a lowly clump of brown dough and transform it into something extremely educational and highly entertaining.  Reusing at its best!

Dirt Play Dough (a.k.a. Chocolate Play Dough) Recipe

2 1/2 cups flour (plus more for kneading)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
3 cups water
3 tablespoons oil
  1. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and cream of tartar in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan.
  2. Add water and oil.
  3. Stir constantly over medium heat.  The mixture will be soupy for several minutes and then suddenly it will stick together and can be stirred into a ball.
  4. When mixture thickens and forms a rough ball, remove from the heat and continue stirring.
  5. Turn the hot ball of dough onto a floured surface, and begin kneading as it cools.  Add extra flour if mixture is too sticky.  Continue kneading until flour is incorporated and dough is no longer sticky.
  6. Enjoy dirt dough with plastic flowers, flower pots, small construction vehicles, plastic famr animals, rollers, cutters, and other tools.
  7. Store at room temperature in a large zip-lock bag or other air tight container.
Linked to these inspiring Blog Parties:


  1. How adorable! My grands are going to love this. I love the fact that you love teaching. We need more teachers like you!

  2. This is such a cute idea! My daughter would love it. And I love that it's "chocolate. Clever ideas for how to use it, too. Thanks!

  3. Love this! This would be fun to make with my Kindergarteners! I bet it smells yummy also! :)

  4. Love it! I make a new batch of playdough for my son every month. I was planning to do chocolate for February, but never quite got around to it. I LOVE the idea of using this as "dirt" playdough, and this will be just perfect for my little gardener and construction truck lover!

  5. I love it! Especially the construction site! My boys mix up all their colors of playdough to make fossilized dinosaur footprints, then remold it and make more...this would be perfect - their playdough is pretty old....

  6. Fab! How have I never thought to add flowers to the playdough table at preschool? Definately going to give this a try.

  7. I am in LOVE! This is such a clever play idea. My girls love that Mrs. Wishy Washy book and we have those animals. Making this soon! I will link back up to you.
    Thanks for the idea.

  8. My kids adore playing with play dough - I've never thought to make it brown though! The construction site would go down very well here, but I personally love the Mrs Wishy Washy 'kit'.

    Actually I prefer the idea of dirt play dough (dirt being inedible) to chocolate play dough...

  9. This is super cute! Love it with the flowers in it!

  10. Great idea! I am making a dirt/ garden sensory box for next month. I think I will have to make some brown play dough to go along with it.

  11. Such a brilliant idea - love it!

  12. I just told me husband the other day that schools need to teach the children how to learn - not teach them the specifics.

    Its like the saying - give someone a fish, feed them today, teach someone to fish, feed them for a lifetime.

    Thanks for the excellent ideas on DIRT play doh :) I need some creativity over here... playdoh is getting boring :P

    Thanks for linking up to It's Playtime this week, I hope to see more of your ideas next Thursday too!

    Jamie @ hands on : as we grow

  13. oh i am totally making this one when i have kids! my mom made one like this but with peanut butter when i was little. i loved that!

  14. Thank you for sharing. I made this with the children last week to be used as a medium for playing with zoo animals while studying "the zoo" in our homeschool. I blogged about it and linked to you. :)

    Thanks again for the inspiration.

  15. NEW art venture for this publish and its relevant to me lately beginning to consume java (I’m 31 and never liked java but 3 children create you exhausted enough to try it!). I had observed you could create java money with the used argument and I checked it up on the web. I discovered quite a few formulas but a lot of them used immediate java, which I just didn't have and the concept of recycling the old crushes was awesome (composting performs too but the money is more fun and terrible I can rich composting the money after too). The children had so much more fun with this money than I would have believed. While they were creating it Ethan kept saying it was major so I went with that and said it was major dust money. They were excited! Once I kneaded it and passed it over elements got better. It has an excellent surface and fragrance. They combined paintballs, created snakes and then I got out the dinosaurs for them to create traditional paths. Tongue Depressor

  16. Tried this and my 2 1/2 year old loved it. Thank you!

  17. I found this looking for fun lesson ideas for a preschool class. I think we're going to use it in the next couple weeks. The kids will love the dirt play dough!