Lately I've noticed that my son seems really interested in the different textures of his food. I've seen him squeeze birthday cake, yogurt, and bananas through his little fingers, and he seemed delighted by the texture. Without a doubt, I figured he was ready for play dough.
I whipped up a batch of this simple dough that I used to make for the kids back when I was teaching preschool. You can add a few drops of flavoring extract (orange, strawberry, vanilla) to make scented dough, but my son is young and I didn't want to confuse him ("It smells like food. Why can't I eat it?"), so I left it out.
1 cup flour
1 cup warm water
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. oil
1/4 cup salt
1. Mix all ingredients together. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until the dough thickens, pulls away from the sides, and forms a ball (about 5-10 minutes).
2. Remove from pan and knead until blended smooth.
3. Food coloring can be added when mixing ingredients before heating, or kneading the dough afterward. (I made 2 batches and split them each in half, so I added the food coloring afterward.) Add a few drops at a time and knead until the color is completely incorporated - add more if necessary.
4. Store in a plastic bag or airtight container when cooled.
I know it will be a few years before he's able to really build and work with the dough, but for now he has fun squishing it and throwing the balls I roll for him. I'm always amazed to see how something that takes only minutes to make can provide hours of entertainment!