Forest Putty Recipes

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What is "forest putty?"

Forest Putty is Tinkergarten's name for play dough that we let kids take outside to blend and create with! Find easy recipes for forest putty below, or start with some store bought play dough, and play!


Homemade play dough recipe:


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cups cold water
  • Coloring ingredient (e.g. turmeric powder mixed with a tiny bit of water).
  • Scented ingredient (e.g. cinnamon, splash of vanilla extract, lemon juice, essential oil or other spice)


  1. Mix dry ingredients add wet ingredients well.
  2. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring continuously, until the dough holds together and is slightly more clear in color.
  3. Knead a few times, then let it cool.
  4. Once cool, pack in a ziploc bag or airtight container. Store in the refrigerator between uses.

(Makes enough for 6 baseball-sized balls, so suggest 2-3 batches for a typical class)

Forest Putty can also boil water, let it cool to about 120 degrees F, then slowly add it to the dry ingredients in a mixer. Works like a charm, and a bit quicker, too!.

Tips from Tinkergarten Leaders:

  • Double the recipe for 10 people (I like everyone to have plenty).
  • Once the mix is cooking in the pan, keep stirring, and use a wooden spoon. It is very wet, and you will feel like it's failing. Keep stirring. You 'll see it start to stick to the spoon...Keep stirring until it starts to stick to itself and take on a ball-ish form.
  • Let the dough cool for a while and start kneading. Put on rubber gloves at this point because it is very hot
  • I've used herbs and spices for scent more than coloring, although turmeric would work and beet juice always lends strong color.
  • Add sprigs of rosemary and other dried herbs you have in your cabinet...looks really pretty, smells great,and the tannish color of the flour matches well, so you notice the color of the leaves.
  • Adding coloring or herbs when it's cooling keeps colors and scents stronger rather than while it's in the pot.
  • Use natural coloring if you can. Food coloring is okay, but often looks pretty unnatural.
  • Write a note to accompany the play dough that reads something like, “Dear explorers, enjoy using this Forest Putty to play and make things. Your friends, the Forest Fairies”
Alternative Gluten Free Play Dough Recipe
NOTE: The recipe works with gluten free all purpose flour. This is an alternative recipe that is also gluten free.
  • ½ cup rice flour
  • ½ cup salt
  • 1 tsp cooking oil
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup water (colored if desired)
  1. Mix cornstarch and water.
  2. Mix all other dry ingredients.
  3. Add oil to wet ingredients.
  4. Mix together well and cook over low heat stirring for about 3 minutes until if forms a ball.
  5. Knead and let cool.

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