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  • Gina

The BEST Dirt Play Dough Recipe

In this BLOG post, you will learn how to make Dirt play dough, storage tips and ways to enhance your learning.

Our recipe for dirt play dough is soft, squishy and so fun to play with! You can use it with plastic bugs, but it is also great for diggers, dinos or farm animals!

Play dough provides so many opportunities for children to strengthen fine motor skills, enhance language and vocabulary and work on educational topics while they play!

It can be differentiated in SO many ways. Plus, if you make the recipe together, you get bonus points for quality time together, measuring, following a recipe and working on safety in the kitchen!

Sensory Play supports:

  • Language development & vocabulary

  • Cognitive growth

  • Fine motor skills (small muscle movements)

  • Gross motor skills (big movements)

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Communication

  • Exploration of textures

  • One's ability to make connections

  • The concept of cause & effect


  • 1 cup flour

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/4 cup salt

  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1/4 cup coffee grounds (I toss in the used coffee grounds from my pot, it doesn't matter if it isn't exact!)

If you do not have coffee grounds, or you prefer not to use them, that's OK! You can substitute a few tablespoons of cinnamon or apple pie spice. You can also eliminate seasoning all together and add 5 drops of brown food coloring to the water to make it look like dirt!

How To:

  1. Pour all ingredients into a pan.

  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently.

  3. When it forms a ball, remove from pan.

  4. After it cools, knead well.

  5. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months!


  • Squirt your food coloring (if substituting) into your water & stir before pouring into the pan.

  • Mix slowly & consistently to incorporate all of the ingredients together.

  • You can also experiment with spices to add an extra layer of sensory goodness to your dough!

  • If your dough starts to feel too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water into the dough and knead it in. This will help soften it back up!

 Sensory Play Recipes are:

  • An excellent way to connect with your kids (and your own inner child!) as you spend time together making the recipes even before play begins!

  • Eco-friendly: you control the ingredients that go into it and use much less packaging. 

  • Budget-friendly: most recipes last up to 6 months if stored properly. 


  • Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

  • It is normal to see salt crystalize on the dough. Knead it back in before use.

  • If you see mold, throw away immediately.

Why cream of tartar?

Cream of tartar acts as a stabilizer, prolonging the shelf life of the dough. It also softens your dough! If you don't have any, use lemon juice or white vinegar as a substitute!

Ways to extend your learning:

  • Use the bugs to practice sorting by size, color or number of legs. You can also sort by insects that fly/insects that do not fly.

  • Use the bugs to practice making patterns.

  • Use the bugs to work on 1:1 correspondence: pointing to each bug and touching it as you count.

  • Speaking of counting, these bugs are PERFECT to use to represent numbers, practice counting and work on addition or subtraction.

  • Flatten the dough and smoosh the bugs into it, then remove then. Now you have a bug puzzle that your child can complete by matching the images!

  • Take a bug and hide it inside a ball of play dough. Have the child dig through it to find what is hidden inside! This is SO good for fine motor skills.

Are you looking for other ways to use these bugs? Check out our Frozen bug post HERE!


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