Play-Doh is made with wheat flour (aka, gluten) and is risky for children with celiac disease and gluten intolerance to play with. The good news is that you can make or buy gluten-free play dough at home in about 10 minutes or less. In this article, I’ll show you a cost-effective and fun way to make copycat gluten-free play dough at home. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
While people with celiac disease must ingest Play-Doh to experience ill effects, just playing with Play-Doh and getting it stuck in their fingers can put a child at risk of potentially ingesting it and getting sick.
Instead, you can purchase – or make – gluten-free play dough made with alternative ingredients, such as rice flour, cornstarch, and potato starch. These ingredients are safe for children with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities and deliver a fun and moldable texture.
Additionally, making homemade gluten-free playdough is a great way to involve your children in a fun family activity, allowing them to experience the joys of whipping up a batch to play with and use that batch for loads of creativity and imaginative play for weeks.
Children can use the gluten-free play dough to explore shapes, colors, and textures while developing fine motor skills.
On top of it all, since the play dough is homemade, you can customize the colors (and even scents) to your child’s liking.
Without further ado, get ready to make gluten-free play dough. I’ll first share my super simple gluten-free play dough recipe, and then I’ll share a list of store-bought gluten-free Play-Doh alternatives if you don’t feel like going through the trouble (I get it!).
7-Ingredient Gluten-Free Play Dough
Here’s what you’ll need to make my simple and fabulous 7-Ingredient Gluten-Free Play Dough:
Gluten-Free Flour: Most store-bought 1-to-1 gluten-free flour blends will work well In this recipe. I typically use Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour because it’s easy to find in stores and isn’t too expensive. I also like the Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Flour for this recipe.
As always, not all gluten-free flour works the same in all recipes. One flour that I have tried and that hasn’t worked well for gluten-free play dough is King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour. Beware.
Cornstarch: Cornstarch will help the gluten-free playdough hold together and be less sticky when handling. If the dough is sticky, meaning it’s sticking to your hands when you play with it, you can simply add a little bit of cornstarch until you get the desired texture. Try potato starch instead if you’re avoiding corn.
Salt: Salt will help the proteins in the flour stick together, and it acts as a natural preservative.
Cream of Tartar: Don’t skip the cream of tartar. It will give your homemade playdough a super soft texture. It also helps to stabilize the dough so it lasts longer.
Vegetable Oil: Vegetable oil will make the dough soft and stretchy and help deter the dough from drying out too quickly. Sadly, however, all dough will eventually dry out if not stored and cared for properly.
Water: The water will bring all the ingredients together, binding the flour proteins so the play dough is squishy and malleable.
Food Coloring (optional): While it’s tempting to use natural food coloring, It won’t work as well. I recommend using gel food coloring for the best results.
Exact measurements are in the RECIPE CARD at the bottom of this article.
How to Make Gluten-Free Play Dough
Before getting started, please note that I recommend making the play dough in batches so you can create a variety of colors. This recipe nets one color play dough per batch.
Step #1: Combine the dry ingredients in a saucepan and mix them together.
Step #2: Turn the heat to medium and stir in oil using a rubber spatula. Do not use a wooden spatula. The dough will stick to it.
Step #3: Combine the water and a few drops of the food coloring in a separate bowl. Stir, then add to the saucepan. (See notes)
Step #4: Constantly stir the mixture for 3-4 minutes until the play dough holds together well and has a smooth consistency.
Step #5: Turn the heat off and turn the dough onto wax paper to cool.
Step #6: Once the dough is cool to the touch, about 5-10 minutes, knead it for a few minutes, then allow it to fully cool before playing with it.
Repeat the process to make another color dough. It will take 6-10 minutes for you to make each batch.
Once the dough is cool, you can hand it over to your kids and get to playing!
I recommend buying this pack of play dough supplies or using cookie cutters and rolling pins you already have at home to have a grand ole time rolling out and cutting the dough into fun shapes and designs.
If the Dough Is Too Sticky: If the play dough is too sticky, try cooking it for a few minutes longer or kneading in extra cornstarch or flour. The dough will thicken as it cools.
If the Dough Is Too Wet: If the play dough is too dry, wet your hands and knead a small amount of water into it.
How to Store the Play Dough: Store the dough in zip-top bags or small plastic containers. I found little containers that work great for small amounts at Dollar Tree. The play dough will stay soft and malleable for at least a week but likely much longer.
Best Practices for Adding Food Coloring: You can make the play dough white and knead in the food coloring in small amounts, but I prefer to add it to the water so that it colors it all at once.
How to Add Scents: Feel free to add a few drops of essential oils to the water mixture when preparing the dough. You could also add a pinch of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice for fall-scented fun!
Store-Bought Gluten-Free Play Dough Options
Making homemade gluten-free play dough is cheaper (and more fun!) than buying gluten-free Play-Doh alternatives. You can make four batches of homemade gluten-free play dough for well under $10.
However, if you’re looking for a quick, no-mess way to enjoy gluten-free play dough, below are a few gluten-free copycat Play-Doh options on the market.
(1) Whoa Dough at Target
The most popular gluten-free Play-Doh alternative is Whoa Dough, which you can find at most Target stores.
Whoa Dough feels more like model magic from Crayola, but it does work well and isn’t too expensive.
While the ingredients in Whoa Dough are proprietary, it’s non-toxic and safe and is free from gluten, peanuts, eggs, milk, and soy. The below container costs $4.99.
Colorations is a wheat and gluten-free Play-Doh alternative; it’s also free from latex, dairy, casein, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy. One user on Amazon says she thinks the consistency is “better than regular Play-Doh.”
(3) Aroma Dough
Aroma Dough is free from gluten and soy and is scented with natural oils for kids who desire a calming and soothing sensory experience. One reviewer on Amazon describes the dough’s texture as “slightly gritty (sandy).”
(4) Crayola Model Magic
Although it’s not quite the texture of Play-Doh, Crayola says its Model Magic is free from gluten and wheat.
Crayola goes on to say in the Q&A section, “Crayola is not a gluten-free manufacturing facility. Since multiple Crayola products are produced in the same manufacturing facilities and on the same machinery, there is a slight chance of cross-contamination.”
(5) Kinetic Sand
Kinetic Sand doesn’t have the same texture as Play-Doh but offers a sensory experience of creating and molding the sand into imaginary shapes.
The company says, “Kinetic Sand is made from natural sand. It is wheat, gluten, and casein-free. Kinetic Sand does not contain any nuts or peanuts as part of the composition, but we cannot guarantee that it was produced in a peanut-free environment. Kinetic Sand is 99% sand, 1% silicone, and has no relationship, contact with food ingredients or food-borne allergy concerns of any kind.”
The Bottom Line
Gluten-free play dough is a fantastic alternative to traditional playdough for families affected by celiac disease or gluten intolerance. It offers a simple and fun way to ensure your children can still enjoy playing and creating without worrying about harmful ingredients.
So what are you waiting for? Get started whipping up your first batch, and let the [gluten-free] play dough magic begin.
PS: Little GF Chefs baking kits provide loads of fun for gluten-free kids. The company sends, by mail, a fun baking kit for you to assemble every month. Choose from Animal Crackers, Unicorn Donuts, Soft Pretzels, and more!
Read my full Little GF Chefs review for more details on how it works and for a 10% off coupon.
Enjoy these articles, too:
- Little GF Chefs Review: Best Gluten-Free Baking Kits for Kids
- Three Kid-Friendly Snack Boards
- Dairy-Free and Low-Sugar Frozen Yogurt Banana Popsicles
- Gluten-Free Pop-Tarts – Homemade
- I Ranked 9 Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets from Best to Worst
7-Ingredient Gluten-Free Play Dough
- Rubber Spatula don't use a wooden spatula because the flour will stick to it
- Wax paper
- Containers or zip-top bags for storing the play dough
- 1 cup gluten-free flour Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour works great – see notes
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch
- ½ cup salt
- 1 Tbsp cream of tarter
- 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp vegetable oil
- ¾ cup water
- food coloring gel works best – Optional
- Before getting started, please note that I recommend making the play dough in batches so you can create a variety of colors. This recipe is for one batch, which will net one color play dough.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a saucepan and mix them together.
- Turn the heat to medium and stir in the oil using a rubber spatula.
- Combine the water and a few drops of the food coloring in a separate bowl. Stir, then add to the saucepan. (See notes)
- Constantly stir the mixture for 3-4 minutes until the play dough holds together well and has a smooth consistency.
- Remove from the heat and turn the dough onto wax paper to cool.
- Once the dough is cool to the touch, about 5-10 minutes, knead it for a few minutes, then allow it to fully cool before playing with it.
- Repeat the process to make another color dough. It will take 6-10 minutes for you to make each batch.