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How To Make Your Own Gluten-Free Playdough

Make your own gluten-free playdough

Gluten-free playdough is one of the easiest things to make for your kids if wheat products are a concern for your family!

My kids LOVE playdough (surprise) and will play with it at least several hours a week, giving me a chance to catch up on work while they indulge in imaginary play and practice their fine motor skills.

And, it is such a great calm indoor activity for the littles ones to do when they can’t be outside.

But unfortunately, most of the commercial playdough contains gluten, which can be, in some cases, a potentially dangerous health issue.

I have included my favorite playdough recipe (the easiest adaptation for gluten-free) along with two other alternatives.

Also, it is such a cheap and easy DIY with ingredients you probably already have if you do any kind of gluten-free cooking and baking anyway!

So let’s get started with the basics.

Does Playdough Contain Gluten And, If So, Why?

commercial playdough with gluten

Yes, be it commercial or homemade playdough, it will likely contain gluten. This is because wheat gluten is known for imparting elasticity through kneading – very much the way playdough is made and played with! The two dominant proteins found in wheat, gliadin, and glutenin, bond together to form an elastic network when they come in contact with water and form gluten. Playdough is constantly massaged and stretched, therefore regularly reinforcing these protein bonds and making playdough what it essentially is – a pliable and moldable medium for play!

Why Should I Make Gluten-Free Playdough?

playdough on hands - accidental gluten ingestion

You should make gluten-free playdough if your child is celiac or has a gluten sensitivity in which their environment may have a direct effect on their health through accidental or intentional ingestion. In other words:

  • Your child’s intolerance may be so severe that touching anything with a trace of gluten will cause a flare-up or other severe immune reaction beacuse they may in turn, put their hands in thier mouth while playing and therefore accientally ingest it.
  • A small child also will often place playdough in their mouths as part of their sensory exploration. This becomes a major safety concern if it is intentionally ingested – so giving them gluten-free playdough will allow them to play safely.

Cross-contamination of gluten in the home is a major concern for individuals who have been diagnosed with celiac or other gluten sensitivities. Playdough that is not gluten-free can leave harmful traces of gluten on sufaces. Read more about sources of cross-conatmination and how you can prevent it.

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What Do I Need to Make Gluten-Free Playdough?

Three Gluten-Free Ingredients To Replace Wheat Flour in Gluten-Free Playdoh (And My Favorite to Least Favorite):

make your own gluten-free playdough what you need to make it

Recipe #1: The Favorite – Classic and Soft

Gluten-free blend – I use Semper, a popular gluten-free brand of flour used around Scandinavia and here in Sweden. The main ingredient is cornstarch in addition to baking powder and guar gum (it is comparable to Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten-Free Flour which is readily available in The Americas and other parts of the world).

This gluten-free flour swap gives identical results to the original flour playdough recipe because the guar gum mimics the protein structure of gluten.

The texture is soft, moist, pliable, and my FAVORITE dough of the three!

For all intents and purposes, you can refer to my other blog post, “DIY Playdough…,” where you can see how to make my favorite playdough recipe gluten-free!

Recipe #2: Second Place -The Firmer Dough

Rice Flour – Finely milled, it is the perfect binder for gluten-free playdough. You can purchase it, or make your own rice flour using a food processor as I did for my zucchini fritti recipe.

This is my second favorite dough in terms of texture.

It is very firm, not as elastic as the gluten-free flour blend, but still moldable.

So if you have some rice flour on hand, this is an excellent option!

Cornstarch – This makes the play dough silky and extra fluffy when mixed with a hair conditioner (this technique is also known as “cloud dough” or “slime” depending on the measurements of each ingredient).

And finally, this is my third and least favorite recipe.

This is playdough has only two ingredients, but it is not the easiest to get right at times.

Depending on which kind of conditioner you use, you may need to adjust the amounts.

The texture of this gluten-free playdough can even be more “slime-like” and stickier if you play with the proportions (and if making slime is the goal)!

However, I find this dough to be better suited for short-term use as there are no preservatives and the texture may become more challenging as it ages – so with this in mind it’s not so bad, but still my least favorite.

make your own gluten-free playdough slime
make your own gluten-free playdough cornstarch ingredients

Other Ingredients:

  • Table salt Aids in the preservation and makes the playdough firmby preventing stickiness.
  • Hot tap water/Boiling water The heat from the water will help to “melt” and activate all of the ingredients to make the dough.
  • Oil This will act as a lubricant and will give the playdough moisture.

4 Trouble-Shooting Tips:

make your own  playdough cornstarch mixture with food color
Problem:Solution:
My Playdough is too wet/sticky Add more flour or cornstarch 1/2 to 1 tablespoon at a time while stirring or kneading.
My Playdough is too dry/crumblyAdd more water 1/2 to 1 tablespoon at a time while stirring or kneading.
I ran short of my main flour/starchSubstitute the rest with an alternate gluten-free flour or starch.
The Playdough smells/is discoloredThrow it out immediately and make a fresh batch with your favorite gluten-free playdough recipe.

“Revive stiff or cold playdough by kneading for at least 5 minutes. As long as the playdough is sill fresh (no odor or signs of mold) the warmth from your hands will re-activate the ingredients and help the dough soften up – and if needed, refer to my troubleshooting tips!”

pro tip – Nicole, Family and Glamour

How To Store Homemade Playdough

 playdough in a resealable bag

Your gluten-free playdough should be kept in an air-tight container or plastic storage bag to prevent it from drying out. I like to use resealable bags so my kids can easily open and close them themselves!

Will This Playdough Last As Long As Regular Playdough?

With proper storage, your playdough should last from one to three months.* However, how well you store your playdough, level of humidity, hygiene, frequency of use, etc. will ultimately determine how long your playdough will last! (*The “cloud dough” or “slime” recipe does not contain salt or other preservatives like cream of tartar or citric acid. This dough will most likely deteriorate within a few days.)

Gluten- Free Playdough Recipes:

Make your own gluten-free playdough
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Make Your Own Gluten-Free Playdough

Gluten Free Playdough 3 Ways
Prep Time5 mins
Active Time5 mins
Rice Flour Cooking Time5 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Crafting
Cuisine: Kid and Family Activities
Keyword: cornstarch, gluten-free, playdough, rice flour
Yield: 3 mounds
Calories:
Author: FamilyandGlamour

Equipment

  • 1 Large mixing bowl
  • 1 spoon or spatula (for the initial mixing of the playdough ingredients)
  • 1 measuring cup
  • measuring spoons
  • food coloring (optional)

Materials

Gluten-Free Flour Blend Playdough

  • cup gluten-free flour blend (220 grams )
  • cup cup table salt (355 grams)
  • 2 tbsp citric acid
  • 3 tbsp vegetable or cooking oil
  • 2 cups hot tap water (not exceeding 120°F/50°C) (475 milliliters) (boiling hot water is not necessary)
  • optional gel or liquid food color

Rice Flour Playdough

  • cup rice flour (200 grams)
  • ½ cup table salt (136 grams)
  • 2 tsp citric acid (or cream of tartar)
  • 1 cup boiling water (237 milliliters) (must be boiling to "cook"the starch in the rice)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or cooking oil
  • optional gel or liquid food color

Cornstarch "Cloud Dough" or Slime

  • 2 cups cornstarch (240 grams) (adjust the quantity as needed)
  • 1 cup hair conditioner (use the most inexpensive – with or without fragrance) (again, adjust the quantity as needed)
  • optional gel or liquid food color

Instructions

Gluten-Free Flour Playdough

  • (Look for a link in the notes to a separate blog post with detailed instructions and other useful information!)

Rice Flour Playdough

  • Add the rice flour, salt, citric acid (or cream of tartar), and oil to a large mixing bowl. Pour in the boiling water.
    make your own gluten-free playdough boiling water rice flour
  • Stir until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl while stirring with a spoon or spatula (approx. 5 minutes).
    make your own gluten-free playdough rice flour stir
  • Add in your optional food color and blend until it is evenly distributed. Allow it to cool thoroughly before play or storage.
    make your own gluten-free playdough food color in rice flour

Cornstarch "Cloud Dough" or "Slime"

  • Put the cornstarch in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add in the hair conditioner a little at a time while mixing with a spoon or spatula. Begin to mix with your hands to "feel" if more of either ingredient is needed for your desired consistency.
    make your own gluten-free playdough cornstarch mixture
  • Add in your optional food color and blend until it is evenly distributed.
    cornstarch and food color playdough

Notes

The link to a DIY Playdough recipe is here (gluten-free option).
  • Rice Flour Dough:  Take special care with boiling water.  You may mix all of the ingredients on the stovetop in a pot on medium-high heat if you feel more comfortable.  Stir the dough ingredients in the pot for 5 minutes until it pulls from the sides.
  • Cornstarch Dough:  This recipe is a matter of preference as far as consistency and texture.  Just keep mixing the amounts until you are satisfied.
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