Homemade Candy Cane Playdough

Share & Comment

Candy Cane Playdough Recipe - A Creative Gift for Kids

This post contains affiliate links.Maia and I made homemade candy cane playdough this past weekend. I’m always trying to think of gifts that Maia can participate in making and this one fits all my criteria perfectly: it’s easy and fun to make, inexpensive, and once given, encourages creative play.

As usual we used MaryAnn Kohl’s recipe for play clay from First Art. I always plan to try new recipes, but love this one so much, I never do.

Homemade Playdough Recipe


  • 5 cups water
  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 cups salt
  • 3 Tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 10 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Red food coloring
  • Glitter
  • Peppermint essential oil


Mix water, salt, cream of tartar, and food coloring. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring regularly until mixture is hot. Add oil. Stir in flour a cup at a time, stirring in between each addition. Mix until playdough pulls away from pan and is no longer sticky (pinch it between your fingers to test). Dump dough on counter, let cool a bit, then knead.

Homemade Playdough Recipe

Add Glitz and Glamour to Your Homemade Playdough

To make the candy cane playdough, we made two batches of the play clay, one red and one white. After the dough cooled down a bit, we kneaded in some glitter for holiday glitziness and some peppermint essential oil (about 10 drops each batch) for the yummy candy cane smell.

Homemade Playdough Recipe

Help Your Playdough do the Candy Cane Twist

Next we gathered our playdough (cut up into individual portions – I think we divided each batch into 12 or so) and our packaging materials (pint canning jars, holiday fabric squares, yarn, color copies of Maia’s Christmas “cards”, and some labels I made in Word).

Homemade Playdough Recipe

We rolled the playdough into snakes…

Homemade Playdough Recipe

then twisted one red and one white one together like a candy cane.

Homemade Playdough Recipe

Each playdough twist was put into a jar and we added the fabric, lids, and labels.

Candy Cane Playdough

Et voila! Candy cane playdough.

Homemade Playdough Recipe

Gifts Maia helped make that she can give to her friends.

Pin it ::

Candy Cane Playdough Recipe - A Creative Gift for Kids

Share & Comment
Subscribe to The Artful Parent newsletter


  1. says

    I love this!
    We made Christmas ornaments…which came out really great. We took Styrofoam balls and loaded them with glue. The kids put cut tissue paper (blue, purple, silver on some balls and red, green, gold on others). After fully covering the balls, we “painted” sparkly glue all over the balls. This also helped keep the tissue flat. After they dried, we used wrapping string/ribbon – tied it around the balls as you would a present. Made a knot, left space for a loop, and tied a bow. It hangs beautifully on the tree.
    (Hope my description was clear. I share because they look really nice and it was easy! I did it with my 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 yr. old boys.)

  2. says

    We made ornaments as well, for teacher gifts (we have 11 including staff), using the directions here: http://buggieandjellybean.blogspot.com/2009/12/paint-ornament-tutorial-my-very-first.html
    My boys picked the color combinations, thinking about which teacher liked which colors, and every single ornament came out absolutely gorgeous. It’s a simple project that allows some creative input from my kids and the result is beautiful–which makes it a perfect gift project!

  3. says

    Did you add anything to the white to make it look white, or is the play clay that shade when you make it? I am thinking of white play clay for my preschool class in January, but want to make sure it looks rather white since we might be using it to make pretend teeth for Dental Health week.

  4. Lisa says

    I was also wondering about how the clay becomes white.
    Also, I’d love to know if the glitter stays in the clay well. After playing with it do the kids have glitter all over their hands? We are giving glitter glue as presents. I like how the glitter doesn’t come off after it dries–I love the kind from Discount School Supply.
    For adult presents, we are decorating notepads with a personalized cover made using watercolor paper. We cut out the recipient’s initial from contact paper and stick it to the paper. After my little one paints over it with watercolors, we remove the contact paper. Inspiration was one of your projects along with the same idea from the Let’s Explore blog. They came out so nice!

  5. says

    Super gift idea! I love your presentation. My 1st grader made Rudolph hot cocoa cones for his friends. We gave winter books to my preschoolers’ friends. I’m going to keep this idea in mind for Valentines though!

  6. says

    This is an amazing gift – handmade – for her friends! And love the colours and the glittery look. Pari and I too made play dough recently and we too used glitters!
    She also made some Pasta necklace recently…
    And created her space themed birthday party! :)

  7. Renee says

    We made pine cone bird feeders. Attached twine so they can be hung from a tree and gave them to the neighbors. The recipe we used did not have Peanut Butter because it is hard for the birds to get it out from their beaks.

  8. Kristin says

    We made salt dough ornaments, had a decorating party with friends and then potato printed the gift wrap we wrapped the ornaments in. Great fun! Took a bit of foresight, but was easily done in a few days. Great gifts for grandparents, aunts and uncles. Love the idea of candy cane play dough- must remember for next year!

  9. Julie L. says

    We made recycled crayons using melted down crayon bits and candy molds. My daughter is only 2 so she only helped by peeling the paper off the old crayons. She really enjoyed watching my stir the different color crayons together though.

  10. says

    Adorable!! We made friendship tea in jars like this for teachers and felt poinsettia pins! Haven’t exchanged gifs with little friends but we did make homemade gifts (felt food for the play kitchen) for our little cousin and homemade gifts for grandparents.
    Love the candy cane dough in jars!! Might just have to start giving gifts to friends so we have an excuse to make some : )
    Merry (Crafty) Christmas from our family to yours!!
    xoxo MaryLea

  11. Jenny says

    I love this idea and I think we will do it next year! We made photo holders for the grandparents. I gave them each (2yo & 5yo) a blob of salt dough which they poked random trinkets into then I added one wire in the center with a spiral twisted on top. When they dried, they each painted theirs a solid bright color. Then we took a photo of each child and backed it with cardstock matching the other childs paint and placed it in the spiral “holder”. The grandparents get a very unique piece of abstract art and a photo to go with it. We’ll see how they like it!

  12. Kristin says

    We made salt dough ornaments, had a decorating party with friends and then potato printed the gift wrap we wrapped the ornaments in. Great fun! Took a bit of foresight, but was easily done in a few days. Great gifts for grandparents, aunts and uncles. Love the idea of candy cane play dough- must remember for next year!

  13. Alex says

    We made bean bags for my 3 1/2 yo daughter’s friends. She picked the fabric and filled them with beans. We use a folded piece of recycled food box as a “bean slide.”
    Our quickie decoration gift for all the far away relatives this year was spiced cardboard gingerbread men. I cut out the shapes, made details with glue and then she sprinkled various (mostly winter-y) spices on them. Then I taped on a ribbon loop. Last year we did hanging (vertical) garlands that said j-o-y-handprint with each piece being cut out of heavy paper she had decorated in a different way with red/white/sparkle. Probably cuter than this year’s but kind of exhausting, really.

  14. s.byrne says

    I’ve made the bird feeders before using vegetable shortening due to peanut allergies in my preschool class. They came out great, but a little harder to clean up. So, we sprinkled the kids’ hands with flour and told them to run their hands together before washing to get some of the shortening off.

  15. says

    I noticed Hearthsong has “holiday” or “winter” sets and Magic Cabin has “brights” and “pastels.” They actually contain quite a lot. I’d like to do some plain beeswax for myself, but want to see how they burn first.

  16. says

    We made bath salts: 1 part coarse sea salt to 3 parts Epsom salts – scented with a few drops of your favorite essential oil (lavender and orange are yummy together). We also put them in glass jars with homemade labels. Directions: about 1 cup per bath.
    Yesterday I had two boys (aged 6) mix in a huge bowl and fill the jars. They loved it. It was simple with a bit of sensory play for bonus.

  17. says

    The glitter stays in the playdough pretty well. Some comes out on the table or hands sometimes, but not much. The playdough is white naturally unless you add food coloring to color it.
    Love your personalized notepad idea!

  18. says

    What did you use instead of peanut butter? We made some pinecone bird feeders with peanut butter. I didn’t know about the problem with the pb and the birds’ beaks.

  19. Selena says

    I received some homemade bath salts this year from a friend and was thrilled, thought it was the best idea and warned her i would be stealing that idea for myself! She used baby oil, mmm.
    I cant wait for next year=candy cane playdoh for the kids and peppermint bath salt for the adults :-)
    What a great site i stumbled upon, thanks for sharing all these wonderful artsy ideas Jean, i cant wait to try some, oh ok, most!

  20. says

    Jean, these look so great! And how fabulous that Maia was able to make it with you, and get into the spirit of giving. This is on our list of gift-giving to-dos for next winter.

  21. Emily Forand says

    I really love your site! My girls and I framed a family photo with popsicle sticks and made them into magnets for most people on our list (old school, I guess). For two of my friends with kids, I put together a “Penguin Snowglobe” craft kit for them to make with their children.

  22. Krista M says

    WOW! what a great party idea! What a great job. Your daughter is very industrious and has an amazing creative spirit!

  23. says

    What kind of food coloring do you use? I just use the standard food coloring that you can get at the grocery store (I live in the US – Illinois to be exact LOL) and every time I try to get red, it just turns out pink.

  24. says

    Fun! We actually made play dough spiked with essential oils for Christmas, too! I really like to match the color to the scent–lavendar with lavendar, white with vanilla, etc. Our red play dough was cinnamon scented!

  25. says

    Love this idea! My daughter’s birthday is next week, and I think I’ll make some for her little friends to play with and take home as a favor. I just received First Art for Christmas and have been itching to make some of the dough. Thanks for the inspiration! Love your site!

  26. Kathy says

    Hello! I just came across your fabulous idea. I was thinking of doing it with my son but adjusting it for Valentines Day. Is there an expiration of the playdoh made this way that I should be aware of or make the recipients aware of?

  27. says

    My preschool class has made cinnamon ornaments before. Get the biggest container of cinnamon you can buy, mix with enough applesauce to make a paste, roll out onto wax paper like cookie dough and use cookie cutters to make gingerbread men and other festive shapes. Let them dry for a day or two and then a grown up can paint details on with puff paint or fabric paint (that has a fine tip). Make sure to punch a hole while wet for an ornament hook or ribbon.

  28. Gigi sauter says

    Thank you so much for sharing this cute idea! We have been looking for some homemade ideas for our cousins this year.

  29. says

    this is a great idea! my son is too young for playdough just yet, but we have baby friends a bit older that will now be receiving this as a christmas gift! i LOVE the glitter :)
    have you ever done this with any kind of natural food coloring? just curious …

  30. Sarah says

    About how many drops of the red food coloring do you need to make it red vs pink? Any suggestions for alternatives to traditional food coloring? Thanks!

  31. Bethany says

    Love the candy cane playdough in a glass jar! I’m going to make this for my daughters 3rd Birthday party and give these out as favors! She’s a christmas eve baby so it’ll work great:) Only concern though… should it always be in the fridge when not in use? How long does it last until it goes bad? I think I might put the directions for keeping on the tag. Thank you

  32. Virginia says

    My grandkids made us some of these a couple of years ago and when we unwrapped them this year they still smell wonderful!

  33. says

    Btw, there are natural food colorings on the market apparently, but I haven’t tried them yet. And I’ve heard of some people dying playdough pink/red with beet juice. Also Kool-Aid.

  34. says

    I LOVE this idea! I really want to do it with the kiddos and give some as gifts. You could get even more Christmas-y and try cranberry juice for the food coloring; I haven’t tried it but I heard it works (at least, with fresh cranberries that have been steeped). You could also do pink and red for Valentine’s Day, or perhaps orange and green for Halloween – it’s versatile!
    It’s always a challenge trying to figure out what to give my brother- and sister-in-law’s six boys. This year I used some leftover metal pails I had from my wedding ten years ago (we used them with our candy favor buffet) and painted the outsides with chalkboard paint. I filled them with honey sticks, yo-yos, stickers, fruit snacks, hot chocolate and marshmallows, extra chalk, crazy straws, etc. Bonus: no gift tag needed because I wrote their names on the outside with chalk! I also tied little pieces of ribbon to the handle.

  35. Gina says

    This is a REALLY cute idea. The only issue I am having is giving glass jars to kids. Do you or anyone else have an idea just as cute that doesn’t require anything breakable? I wish they had these jars in plastic!
    Thanks for the idea. Even if I don’t come up with a cute alternative, the kids will still get this candy cane striped play dough in a plastic baggie.

  36. Catherine says

    Thank you for this fun and easy idea! My daughter and I just made our first batch of homemade playdough today and added red food coloring for the candy cane idea. After the kneading, my hands are pretty pink now, though. I am just wondering if you have noticed any of the coloring coming off on their hands when they are playing with the dough or if it stained clothing at all. I hoped that once it cooled and was ready to play with that it wouldn’t come off on our hands, but it still did. :( Any ideas? I don’t want to give it to my daughter’s friends and get their mommies mad at me but it’s such a cute idea! :)

  37. Angie says

    I used green food coloring, in addition to red, and I’m having the most bizarre problem. My green batch turned out great, very smooth and doughy. My red, on the other hand…there are so many adjectives to choose from, and none of them are smooth or doughy. It’s chunky and resembles raw hamburger meat! I’ve made several batches and tried different brands of food coloring. I’ve duplicated the process to the best of my knowledge, but I must be doing something wrong. Any ideas? I love this craft and refuse to give up! Thanks in advance.

  38. Sarah says

    I just used peppermint extract. It isn’t as strong smelling as the peppermint oil would be, but it is fine. I added it when i was mixing it on the stove. I added quite a bit and wish i had added a little more. Thanks for the wonderful idea!!!

  39. Katie says

    I just finished my batch of candy cane play clay (your twisting and placement in jar looks much neater than mine). I’m very pleased at how it turned out and super excited to give some to all the kids at a family holiday party this weekend. Also, adding essential oils to playdough has opened a whole new world for me (orange with orange? lemon with yellow? We could do the whole rainbow!). Thanks so much!

  40. Eileen says

    I know I’m totally after the fact, but….We made lavender sachets. I cut 6″ square pieces of muslin for my four-year-old to color on with fabric markers. I then ironed them (to set the markers) and sewed them together with dried lavender inside. She really enjoyed deciding what types of images to draw for each recipient-some were recognizable, like flowers, people, suns, etc. and some were just designs made with dots, spirals, angles, and so on. It was fun for both of us and a hit with the family members who received them!

  41. Beth Myckowiak says

    I love this idea! Thanks! How many drops of food coloring do you use to make the red play doh. I have never made play doh before and want to be sure I don’t end up with pink playdoh!

  42. Beth Myckowiak says

    oops… also how far in advance can you make the playdoh for gifts & it will still be fresh? We have a Christmas party on December 8th.

  43. Anita says

    I haven’t read all the comments. But I’m thinking a few drops of peppermint oil in the play dough would be awesome. Purchased at any health food store.

  44. says

    Wish I could tell you! We always wing it. The good news is, you can always add more after the fact. Make a well in the middle of the playdough ball, add some food coloring, close the playdough around the food coloring and then knead it well until the food coloring is distributed throughout the playdough ball.

  45. crystalyn says

    Hello, I would really like to make this for my nieces for Christmas, however I only have 3 of them. How can I make a smaller portion of your dough?
    Thank you,

  46. says

    Hi Crystalyn – yes you can halve the recipe easily. However, it’s fun to have a lot of playdough!! I make a whole recipe just for my two kids and it definitely gets used. :)

  47. Jasmine says

    Is this easy to clean up if it get on the carpet? My brother doesn’t like to give his kids playdoh because its hard to clean up, their house is mainly carpet. I think this would be a fun alternative if it’s easy to clean on carpet.