gluten-free scented playdough

last week, i was inspired by tinkerlab’s beautiful post on rainbow play dough. i used to make play doughs of all kinds frequently before our household became gluten-free in july 2010. since then, i have not made a batch of play dough because gluten-free flours are quite spendy! i’m hesitant to bring wheat flour into my kitchen for fear of contamination (i’m gluten intolerant) so i just sort of put a hold on the dough making… until now.

after the tinkerlab post, i inquired on facebook about gluten-free play dough recipes that wouldn’t break the bank, and one of my wonderful facebook followers, emily, offered up this simple recipe: (thank you, emily!)

  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tsp cream of tarter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp cooking oil
  • Food coloring, if desired (i like the wilton gel icing colors)

Mix ingredients. Cook and stir on low heat for 3 minutes or until mixture forms a ball. Cool completely before storing in a sealable plastic bag or tuperware.

so we began our experimentation with this recipe today. i plan to also try out a gluten-free play dough crock pot recipe next time, also offered by a facebooker. i doubled the recipe, and added a little sensory twist. i thought it’d be fun if each color dough had its own scent, so i broke out my essential oil stash to add into the mix.

i mixed the ingredients together (without color or scent) in a large pot until it looked like this.

then i divided the dough into five parts, one for each color we wanted to make.

then i added a bit of the food coloring to each ball and knead it in my hands to distribute the color. this temporarily put some concentrated color on my skin, but it came right off with soap. your kids can do this part, too.

because N wanted “springy eastery pastel colors” i didn’t add a lot of food coloring to the dough. when i added the color, this is also when i added the essential oils, matching color to scent.

  • pink = rose
  • yellow – lemon
  • green = eucalyptus
  • turquoise = peppermint
  • lavender = lavender (though the lavender color is a difficult one to get. ours was kind of muted gray.)


this activity really enlivened the senses of sight, smell, and touch!

i have heard that gluten-free play doughs are often gritty. this recipe was not gritty at all! in fact, the texture was quite smooth and almost like a sticky wax. the stickiness was our only complaint. i’m wondering if they will be less sticky once they are stored for a bit…? we’ll see.

play dough residue = sticky fingers

when we were finished playing (and doing lots of sniffing) for today, we stored it in a plastic sealed container for a bit. i wish i had 5 smaller canisters for it since each has a different smell, but i’m not out of butter, yogurt, fresh mozzerella, or parm yet to recycle those tubs for this purpose. so as of right now, they’re brewing their own special fragrance in that container. 🙂 whooo weee!

happy rainbowy, gluten-free, squishing & smelling!


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  • Thank you for posting this. I have two gluten-free kids, although one is too old for it, the other is not. I hate to have regular playdough in the house as my gluten-free son will eat it. If I make this then even if he is not interested in playing with it, I still don’t have to worry about the other boys playing with it and leaving it out for him to eat.

  • you can also use my microwave bisquick play dough recipe and just pick up the gluten free box:

  • Peggy

    This playdough is AWESOME!!! Just made some lemon, cinnamon and vanilla scented and some blue …with glitter and it worked very well!!

  • isn’t it yummy stuff? i love the scents you chose to make! mmmm… we’ll have to make some more soon!