We've tried Model Magic in two forms in the past week: the official Crayola version and a homemade recipe that I found on Southern as Biscuits. I'm not sure why I've avoided buying Model Magic before now (maybe I just figured it was another play clay and I'm very happy with the playdough we make ourselves), but I finally broke down and bought some for the girls for Christmas. And then when I came across Kristi's DIY recipe, I added it to my list of activities to try over the holidays and thought it would be fun to compare the two.
Crayola Model Magic
We opened the Crayola Model Magic on Christmas day. It was about the first thing Maia wanted to play with, besides the fun butterfly umbrella her grandma sent. She LOVED this stuff! And I have to say that I did, too. I imagine most of you have tried Model Magic already and that I am (was) a lone holdout? Anyway, if you haven't, it's super lightweight, super soft, super stretchy, super fun. I've heard it compared to marshmallows, but I kept thinking of it as cloud dough. It was definitely a new modeling dough experience for us and a positive one. Maia had a smile on her face almost the entire time she worked with it.
First she just poked and squeezed and pulled the dough, exploring it's texture and properties. Then she spent a long time rolling and shaping every last bit of the Model Magic into letters to form all of our names. We set them aside to dry (she has big plans for them).
Homemade Model Magic
Next we cooked up a batch of homemade Model Magic. In making the homemade air dry clay, I followed Kristi's recipe which called for 2 cups baking soda, 1 cup cornstarch, 1 1/2 cups cold water, and food coloring. The ingredients are ones that you likely already have around the home and are super cheap. The photos above show the dough at various stages during the process of making it.
- First, we whisked together all the ingredients in a large pot (I keep an old one just for making playdough and other artsy projects). Maia asked for pink dough, big surprise, so we added red food coloring gel until it was the shade she wanted. The lighting makes it look orange-ish in a couple of the photos, but it was really rather pink.
- Then I heated the mixture over medium heat, whisking pretty much constantly until it started to bubble.
- I kept mixing as the dough cooked, thickened, and pulled together. While Kristi had a couple of additional steps (leaving it to cook with the lid partly on, etc), mine seemed to cook and form quickly and I didn't feel comfortable leaving it.
- Following Kirsti's instructions, I dumped the hot dough into a bowl…
- …covered it with a wet towel, and let it sit until it was cool.
- Finally, we kneaded the dough. While she suggests kneading in cornstarch if the dough is too wet or sticky, we didn't have to do that (ours wasn't sticky).
Overall, this was a very easy recipe to make. Now to play, sculpt, and model with it…
The homemade version of Model Magic is very soft and nice to work with and we ended up making a tray full of play food with it. Maia made pretzels and Daphne and I worked on some chocolate chip cookies (she also just poked and prodded it).
How Do They Compare?
The texture and weight of the two are very different. The Crayola Model Magic is light as air (well, practically, anyway), spongy, and stretchy. The homemade version is soft and pleasing to work with, but doesn't have any of those Model Magic qualities. It is heavier, doughy, and pulls right apart rather than stretching. So, if the special tactile experience of Model Magic is what you like, then the homemade version won't compete. Maia wasn't terribly impressed, but it was probably partly because she had just fallen in love with the Crayola version a couple of days earlier.
Model Magic is not cheap. Our three pack was $9.99. If you are looking for an inexpensive modeling clay, then consider making your own. Especially if your goal is more to have a finished, air dried sculpture (like the cheetah Kristi's son made for a school project) rather than the experience of working with Model Magic specifically. You'll also know exactly what is in your homemade version, which will give you peace of mind if your child is still tasting art materials (Model Magic is labeled as nontoxic, but is recommended for ages 3+).
Maia's Model Magic letters have since air dried. The homemade Model Magic play food has been drying for less that 24 hours, and still has a ways to go (I'm guessing a few days). We're planning to paint both once they are dry. So I may do a follow up post once both versions are completely dried, painted, and decorated.
UPDATE: Both dried just fine. Both took paint well. And both were prone to a bit of breakage. I'd say the homemade air dry clay is great if you just want an air dry clay for sculpting with. The Model Magic is great for the unique texture experience.
By the way, I just found this recipe for No Flour Playdough that is the same as the homemade Model Magic recipe. You could make this and just use it as playdough as long as you keep it well covered between use (she mentions that she left it out overnight and it dried).
Question… Are you a DIY person when it comes to arts and crafts materials or would you rather just buy your materials ready to use?