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Salt Free Play Dough

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We can have so much fun with play dough. But recently in The Creative Play Hub Toddler and Preschool group, we have been discussing the vast benefits of play dough. During that discussion, we talked about being wary of using play dough with tabies (not quite babies, not quite toddlers) or young toddlers who were still mouthing everything in sight. So I went hunting for a salt free play dough recipe!

The reason for my own caution is the large levels of salt in traditional homemade play dough – we have always used 1/2 a cup of salt in our own. That combined with very young children’s tendency to mouth everything would be dangerous as the levels of salt would be considered toxic. With all of that in mind, I have left play dough altogether in the past until 18 months of age.

That being said, play dough is such an awesome sensory activity. My older daughter (3) loves both making and playing with it. Now that E is 13 months old, it seemed like a shame for him to miss out entirely. After browsing Pinterest for a while for salt free play dough recipes, I basically came to the conclusion that the recipes essentially just missed out the salt.

I wanted to go one step further than what I saw and I decided to miss out the baking powder too. I wanted to keep everything as simple as possible and quite honestly, I’m not overly bothered that it will only last a few days.

Recommended age

Although I have done this activity with my 13 month old, please don’t be in a huge rush to complete it with babies much younger than this. I would personally recommend from 12 months. Why? Slightly older babies are more likely to have the concentration and fine motor skills necessary to play with the dough. Secondly, there is the strong likelihood that they will try to eat the dough – whilst technically ‘taste safe’ this could also pose a choking hazard for younger babies.


  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil
  • Water (added gradually)
  • Lemon juice
  • Lemon rind / mint – batch 1
  • Orange rind / rosemary – batch 2

Method for salt free play dough

  1. Add the plain flour, rapeseed oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, then mix well. The mixture should look like breadcrumbs
  2. Dribble water in gradually and stir until the mixture starts to combine.
  3. Knead with your hands. If it is too wet, add more flour and if the mixture is too dry, add a little more water.
  4. Grate orange / lemon rind on top
  5. Chop rosemary / mint
  6. Mix both in well by kneading again.


The dough is slightly stickier and stretchier than the play dough I usually make. I’m assuming that the salt content in traditional play dough serves to dry out the mixture slightly as well as preserve? Still, it smells lovely thanks to the ingredients used!

I decided to introduce the salt free play dough to Mr 13 months on the floor. My logic here was that the high chair is a place he associates with food and the floor is for play. Whilst the dough is officially taste safe, I wanted to discourage the action of eating as much as possible. This is so he doesn’t associate play dough with food in the future.

As I expected, his immediate reaction was to try and eat the dough! I discouraged this as soon as he put the dough to his mouth by placing the dough back on the tray and saying, ‘No, we don’t eat it.’ In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t include the herbs and orange / lemon combination in the future, it did small pretty good and was perhaps confusing. That being said, I still think he would’ve put it in his mouth anyway as that is just the stage he’s at! If you’re reading this and are intending to try it with your 12 month old, maybe just offer the dough plain? Let me know how it goes!

In total, Mr 1 played with the dough for approximately 5 minutes. For his age, I consider this a great success! As well as trying to eat the dough, he repeatedly dropped it (investigating cause and effect), poked it with his fingers and squished it in his little hands.

We will repeat the activity again tomorrow before throwing the dough out – because there is no salt (which acts as a preservative), the dough will not last and I personally wouldn’t recommend keeping it for more than a day, two at the most. This is due to the potential of bacteria growing in the absence of salt!


Supervision Required!

You need to bring your focus A-Game to this activity! Watch extremely closely and don’t let your little one eat the dough in this instance. The aim here is to introduce play dough so that they will not try to eat it in the future. As mentioned above, you could always keep the dough scentless to avoid any confusion!

Want More?

If you want more play dough recipes, please check out the links below. Just keep in mind that my usual homemade play dough contains salt!

Basic Play dough Recipe

10 Activities with Playdough

Sian Thomas

Sian Thomas

Sian is the founder of Teach Investigate Play. She helps parents navigate the early years by providing meaningful and simple activities. She also owns 'Get Set Social Media' - a social media consultancy for small businesses. From the UK, now living in Vienna (via Australia). About page has more!

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