Kneaded Playtime

There are several things that my kids will play with over and over again whether they are 3 or 13.  The trampoline never gets old--I can't wait for consistent warmer weather so that we can put it back up in our new yard.  Legos, no matter how tired of sweeping them up are also timeless.  And then, often to my surprise, is play dough.

Gone are the days of buying PlayDo in the little cans--even though that is fun too.  Ever since the big boys were little, I would make their dough in the kitchen.  It's fast, there is more of it, it lasts longer and it is far less expensive. 

When I say that they can sit and play for hours, I'm not stretching it.  We have a basket with a handful of cookie cutters, plastic butter knives, pastry rollers and of course, a garlic press--for hair.  There are three rules that must be followed:  Use a cutting board, play dough doesn't leave the dining room, and DON'T eat it.  While consuming it isn't toxic, it is salty and it is a glob that won't pass easily I'm afraid, although we've had episodes of odd colored BMs following playing with playdough before!
It is not uncommon to see them playing together, without fighting with this stuff!  More often than not, they are crafting some sort of gourmet playdough dish with a predetermined secret ingredient.  There is typically a judge and the rest are contestants.  They go all out in their presentations and then the judge explains all that he/she considered in style, presentation, use of the secret ingredient, and "taste"  (although real tasting doesn't happen).  They seriously do this for over an hour and often more than two!  While TV inspired their playdough version of Iron Chef, I love that they aren't in front of it now!
We've tried lots of different playdough recipes over the years, but our all-time favorite, never-fail one is made with Kool-Aid and boiling water.  Due to the water, I've always insisted that it is a supervised creation, but after it is added and the dough cools down a bit, the kids have always enjoyed helping start and finish it. Others have proven to be sticky, or don't last long, or take lots more time to make.  From the time we start until they are playing with it is probably 5 minutes, and it stores and keeps quite well, likely because of all of the salt!  The colors are determined by the color of the is the smell!
KOOL-AID playdough
2 1/2 cups flour
1 T. cream of tartar or alum
1/2 cup salt
2 pkgs. unsweetened Kool-Aid
2 cups boiling water
3 t. vegetable oil
Mix first four ingredients well.  Add water and oil.  Stir until smooth and slightly cooled, then continue kneading it by hand until desired consistency is reached.