How do you make clay at home: The good recipes and the one not to use

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If you want to learn how to make clay at home or in your early childhood environment you first have to know what kind of clay is it that you want to make. There are many types of clay, many of which cannot be made at home or anywhere else for that matter.

There are a wide variety of recipes. Mudworks: Creative Clay, Dough, and Modeling Experiences (Bright Ideas for Learning)has a number of good recipes but, even that book does not have them all

Don’t make this recipe for clay

For many years I used this  standard recipe below that is often never seemed to come out good. I  giving it to you so that if you see it elsewhere you should know that is not a great recipe for play dough. Whenever we use it we have to be constantly making adjustments.

2  cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
Food coloring, optional

After some research we found a  much better play dough recipe which would be the one below. Below the recipe, I have an explanation of what alum is, which is one of the ingredients. DO NOT try and taste it, its pretty awful.

2 1/2 c flour
1/2 c salt
1 tbls alum
3 tbls oil
1 1/2 c hot water
food coloring

Alum powder, found in the spice section of many grocery stores. According to the National Food Safety Database, alum is as an ingredient in baking powder and is used as an  agent in producing pickles and maraschino cherries.

Then there are other various play doughs and clays to try.

This one uses liquid starch which you can get in Walmart or you can get it here Sta-Flo Laundry Starch. It seems that liquid starch which I started using for paper mache, is not so easy to find. When I bought it in Walmart, I took the last 2 bottles.

This one is from

use liquid starch and sand to make clay at home

Then there is this  where you can make colorful clay from 

colorful clay to make at home

And then I found this  on Pinterest that only had this image  on it without a link to the site that you can try.

hello kitty recipe on how to make clay

 Here is another play dough recipe, a vinegar play dough recipe that you may want to try.

3 c flour
1 c salt
1 c water
1/4 vegetable oil
2 tbl vinegar

Mix together and add more water if too dry. Knead and then store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Homemade air dry clay

There are a number of recipes that around for this but, the basic idea of making air dry clay is to combine glue with cornstarch. If you are the type that does not follow recipes so carefully then you can do some experimenting with the amounts of cornstarch to glue. It has to be kneaded for a while after mixed together. If you want a real recipe then you may want to try the one below

3 c water
2 c cornstarch
4 c baking soda

The image below from growing a jeweled rose has similar steps

air dry

Cook slowly and add water to mixture slowly. When dough is all ready, put on cookie sheet and cover with wet cloth. After it cools down knead well.

How to make goop without borax

If you want the kids to have a real mushy, gooey, sensory experience you may want to try making goop with them. Many recipes use borax for goop but, here is one you can make without borax.

Heat up

2 c salt
2/3 c water

after heated add quickly

1 c cornstarch
1/2 c cold water

Cook until goopy

How to harden clay

The best way to harden clay is to leave it out. Depending on how thin or thick the objects you made are will determine how long this will take. If you need to make it harden quicker then put it in the oven at 350 degrees.

If you want store bought clay, clays like Sculpey Polymer Clay or Fimo Soft Clay that are  used for  polymer clay projects are made with secret ingredients in their factories and there is no way to replicate the recipes at home.

The gray clay (or red or white) that is more like earthenware clay is taken from the ground so you can’t make that either. Sometimes people may be looking to make air dry clay, but it is stuff that comes out of the ground and has to be bought. (or dug out)

Plasticine is not usually something that anyone would want to make on their own as it is harder and more difficult to use. When someone asks “how do you make clay” they are either referring to a classic play dough recipe that is made in many homes and early childhood classrooms. OR, they want to know how to make air dry clay.

Those are the different ways that you can have children use clay. Buy it or make it yourself.

What has been your experience?

Leave a Comment:

Helena says June 4, 2012

For the air dry clay is it actually 4 c (cups) of baking soda?

gary says June 4, 2012

That’s a really good question. I have to find where I got that recipe from first to see if that was the case.I’ll get back to you after I find it, thanks for pointing it out to me.

gary says June 5, 2012

Ok I found the place that I got it from and it seems that it does require that much baking soda. Let me know how it turns out

jessica says December 15, 2012

this says play dough so many time when its under modeling clay so what is it regular play dough or modeling clay as i need a recipe for modeling clay

gary says December 17, 2012

You’re right Jessica, I do tend to interchange the clays. For the homemade stuff its more of a playdough consistency then like a store bought modelling claay

lindabelle Meyer says October 10, 2016

The clay using cornstarch doesn’t work for me, the one using Alum however does. I need to find a recipe that gets hard, for leaving out doors. Do you know of any? Thanks.

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