Gluten-Free Play Dough: An Allergy-Free Solution for First Day Fun

Play dough is my favorite activity for students for students to do as they enter the room on the first day of school. It gives them an engaging and hands-on task while freeing me up to help other students get situated or meet briefly with parents that come to the classroom. It also promotes collaboration, creativity, and divergent thinking! But did you know that some students with a gluten-allergy may have an allergic reaction from merely touching play dough?  I always thought students with allergies would need to ingest the play dough in order for it to be an issue, but some gluten allergies are severe enough that even touching play dough can cause children to break out in hives.

Play dough is the perfect first activity on the first day of school! But students with a gluten-allergy can break out in hives just by touching play dough. This recipe for gluten-free play dough is super simple to make and will keep all kids safe from allergic reactions.


For this reason, I started to make gluten-free play dough for my students on the first day of school. It costs a little more than traditional homemade play dough, but it still costs less than purchasing pre-made play dough for everyone! It's also worth the extra cost to know that all my students are safe from potential allergic reactions. 


Gluten-Free Play Dough Recipe

Yield: 

Approximately 4 cups of play dough (or 4 dough balls the size of a baseball)

Ingredients: 

2 cups gluten-free flour
1 cup corn starch
1 cup salt
2 Tb Cream of Tartar
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 cup hot water
Food coloring

Other Materials: 

Medium pot
Silicone spatula or wooden spoon
Parchment paper


Directions: 

  1. Mix the gluten-free flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a medium pot. 

  2. Microwave the water so it is hot, but not boiling. Add the hot water and mix until thoroughly combined with the dry ingredients. *

  3. Heat the pot over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula or a wooden spoon. The dough will pull away from the sides and look like play dough when it is ready. Do not overcook. 

  4. Generously cover parchment paper in corn starch. Knead the dough until it becomes the smooth consistency of play dough. If the dough seems crumbly, add a couple drops of water. If the dough is sticky, add more cornstarch. 

  5. Split into dough balls based on how many colors you want to have. Press a well into the middle of the dough ball with your thumb, then add food coloring into the well. I like rich colors, so I add quite a few drops. Close up and knead until the color is evenly distributed. 

* If you would like to add food coloring while making the dough, it works best if you add it to the warm water before pouring it into the pot. I personally like to wait to add it afterwards because I like a variety of colors. 

Play dough is the perfect first activity on the first day of school! But students with a gluten-allergy can break out in hives just by touching play dough. This recipe for gluten-free play dough is super simple to make and will keep all kids safe from allergic reactions.

Magic Dough Alternative: 

To surprise students with Magic Dough that changes colors, separate into small balls of play dough (1 ball per student). Use your thumb to press a small well into each ball, then add food coloring. Plug the hole with more dough so it looks like a regular ball of dough. As students knead the dough themselves, it will "magically" change colors!  

If you would like to print out this recipe or use the tags shown in the picture, you can download them here or by clicking the photo below. 

Play dough is the perfect first activity on the first day of school! But students with a gluten-allergy can break out in hives just by touching play dough. This recipe for gluten-free play dough is super simple to make and will keep all kids safe from allergic reactions.


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I love to use play dough for my first activity on the first day of school! But did you know that some students with a gluten-allergy can break out in hives from merely touching play dough? For this reason, I started to make gluten-free play dough! This recipe for gluten-free play dough is super simple to make!


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