Vanilla-scented ice cream playdough

Here’s a recipe for homemade vanilla-scented playdough in pretty ice-cream shades – together with some play ideas to encourage your kids to explore and learn.

no cook playdough recipe


Playdough is such a wonderful material for chidren to explore as there are so many ways for them to play with it. It’s an open-ended activity so it allows them to use their imagination and be creative with what they make. It’s very good when there’s a mixed age group of children playing as they can all join in a way that suits their age and interests. It promotes language development too if you’re sat chatting about what you’re making or co-operating over sharing materials.

You can add in other resources from time to time to spark ideas for new ways to play – maybe provide some matchsticks, lollypop sticks, cake cases, bottletops or feathers. You can also use a change of location to extend the play possibilities. It’s not a very messy substance, and cleans up fairly easily if you don’t leave it to harden. (Best on hard surfaces rather than carpet though.) It would be interesting to watch how your children use playdough in the garden, in the toy kitchen or in the dolls house.

I’ve been using this family recipe to make playdough for a while but a recent post by Jen over at the The Mad House suggested using essential oils in the mixture to add scent. I loved this idea but as  I wasn’t completely sure the children playing here would keep the dough out of their mouths I’ve used vanilla essence here instead. The addition of natural food colourings produces lovely ice cream-like shades which I much prefer to the lurid shop bought colours. I also like the texture of homemade playdough and it’s so cheap and easy to make. Give it a try and I think you’ll be making your own from now on.

Here’s the recipe – using a measuring jug instead of weighing scales to make it easy.

Warm 750ml of water in a large pan. Add 375 ml of salt, 750ml of flour, 45ml of sunflower oil, 30ml of cream of tartar and 10ml of vanilla essence.

Stir the ingredients together over a low heat. Use a whisk at first to get rid of any lumps and then a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.

Remove the pan from the heat and tip the dough into a large bowl. (If you want to make several different colours you can split the dough into separate bowls at this stage and add a different colour to each bowl. )

Add a few drops of food colouring and knead for a couple of minutes until the colour is evenly spread through the dough.

Let it cool a little and then it’s ready to play with. Store in an air-tight jar and it should last for at least a couple of months.

More playdough recipes

How about a chocolate playdough recipe? Valentine’s playdough? Outer space playdough?

Get the book!

play dough recipe

 Love play dough? Take a look at The Homemade Play Dough Recipe Book :: recipes and ideas for a whole year of play! 


  1. supersinglemum says

    I have never been brave enough to use play dough (bought or home made) with my kids – but actually reading this post has made me onder why the hell not so will be trying out the recipe and will no doubt let you know how it goes! Does it keep for long if you store it in an air tight container?

  2. says

    I am so glad that you have been enjoying it. I never thought of adding natural scent you could also use almond or lemon too. My two are past the putting it in the mouth stage now.

    • Cathy says

      TheMadHouse: yes think of all the things you could use: lime, orange, even coffee. Looking forward to making my next batch now!

      supersinglemum: you should definitely try it – I’m sure you’ll all love it. It’s great for a rainy day – keeps my two engrossed for ages. Let us know how it turns out.

  3. says

    Hey I like this idea to make this ice cream with playdough.Kids like this kid of thing very much.Thanks you very much for such creative idea.

  4. says

    I make play dough almost the exact same way minus the vanilla. Which I will try today, but your is much prettier than mine I love the colour pallette.

  5. says

    What a great idea. I make play dough for my children and have never thought of using vanilla essence. I will definitely be trying this.

  6. says

    We made pink, rose scented play dough for Valentines, you have inspired me to experiment a bit more now, lemon and lime? x

  7. says

    I love the pastel colors and the fact that it is vanilla scented. I bet it was just like playing with ice cream. Oh, we are going to have to try this. I agree with Emily, we might have to venture out and do different scents, too. Thanks for sharing. A BIG thank you for linking up with Try and Tell. :-)

  8. says

    I discovered the ease of making playdough last year, and haven’t bought any since! It feels very different, and you can make fab colours. I made a pink batch and a blue batch recently, and the kids mixed it together to make an amazing deep purple! I’ve just added a no-cook playdough recipe to my blog which makes life much easier…I’m all for that 😉 We like adding glitter as well as colour and smells. Haven’t made any in ages…you have spurred me into action!

    • Cathy @ NurtureStore says

      Thanks for the tip Peach. I’ve seen Koolaid used a lot and think it gives great colours – but I don’t think I can get it in the UK.

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