How to make some totally gorgeously coloured natural dyes for play dough using plants and kitchen cupboard ingredients! Add these natural dyes to my best ever, no-cook, zero waste play dough recipe for a brilliantly, all natural play experience for your little ones!
First, make my best ever, 4 minute play dough recipe! I made three batches of this to create these 7 different natural dyes for play dough. Obviously you would choose which dyes to make each time you create a batch and just try one at a time to make it a little easier, as dividing it up before adding colour was a little complicated.
Next, choose which dyes you want to make using my photo to see the colours each material creates. I just love how subtle yet beautiful each shade is! Then read the how-to instructions for that dye and add the dyed water IN PLACE of the boiling water in my recipe. This is important- it can’t be AS WELL as the boiling water or else it will be much too sticky. Enjoy!
Avocado stones create a beautifully peachy shade. It’s so subtle but truly works well especially when combined with some of the other colours (yes, I do encourage them to mix colours!)
Take 2-3 stones from the middle of avocados, rinse and place into a pan. Cover them with water so that they are only just immersed then simmer gently for around 20 minutes or until the water has changed colour. It will look orange when ready.
Have all of the dry ingredients ready in a bowl and then use 1 cup of this dyed water as the final part of the recipe. Mix and knead when cool enough. It should be super soft and beautifully peachy!
Blueberries create a gorgeously pastel pink/ purple and release their dye quickly. Just add a small handful to a pan and just about cover them with water, then simply simmer until the water has turned a deep pink. Strain off the blueberries and use this water as the final step in my no-cook recipe.
To make this lovely natural shade of brown you can use either coffee, strained tea or cocoa powder (although cocoa can also be used to make this absolutely wonderful chocolate play dough recipe instead, so maybe save it for that!)
To create this amazingly vibrant yellow colour you only need a very small amount of turmeric powder. Be warned, it is an extremely effective dye, often used in cooking, so make sure your children play with this on a tray or tablecloth! I found it fine once mixed into the dough and cooled but while making it I did need to be extra careful (especially on my new white counter tops in the kitchen!)
Simply add a teaspoon of turmeric to boiling water and proceed with the recipe as normal.
Matcha Green Tea Powder
As with the turmeric powder, this colour is very easy to create. Simply add it to the boiling water using 1-2 teaspsoons. You can see a full post and video about creating matcha green tea play dough here that I posted just recently!
It’s such a delicate, natural shade of green, so different to using the gel food colouring. I just LOVE this when paired with natural loose parts materials, such as pine cones, pebbles and leaves!
This dye smells the strongest but also makes THE most amazing shade of purple! I think it’s well worth a little cabbage water smell in order to create this, and a little goes a long way. Simply shred a large handful of red cabbage (two handfuls if you want to also create the blue colour too.) Place it in a pan and just cover with water, then simmer on a low heat for about 20 minutes.
This is the only image I’ve shared of the dye straight after it has finished simmering as it is just SO vibrant. I love it! As you can see, it will be a very rich purple and instantly adds amazing colour to the dry ingredients. Use 1 cup as directed in the recipe.
Red Cabbage + bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
Now, the make this blue dye was a little more complicated and took me a few attempts using trial and error! I had already made red cabbage water turn from purple to blue in this amazing colour changing experiment I did with the kids a couple of years back. (By the way, while you’ve got red cabbage handy you should definitely try this activity next!)
So I knew how to change the purple magically from purple to blue BUT because of the other ingredients in the play dough recipe, a new chemical reaction took place and the whole dough turned to mousse consistency! Fun, but definitely not what I was trying to create.
For making this blue shade then, you need to create my play dough recipe WITHOUT the cream of tartar. Next, take one cup of the purple cabbage water and add 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda.) This may fizz slightly, but then mix it and see what happens! Woooo, you’ve just made an amazing shade of blue!
Now use this blue dye to finish the recipe off!
When they were all created I laid them all out and was thrilled with the range of subtle shades. I expected the cabbage and turmeric to smell bad during play, but actually the scent seemed to mostly disappear.
If you do find it too strong (or use more concentrated dye) then simply add a little lemon essential oil to freshen it.
I sent the kids on a challenge to find flowers and leaves to use with the doughs in play and I love their choices. These all came from our garden (yay for Spring time!)
They chose rosemary leaves, cherry blossom, apple blossom, forget -me-nots, rose and dandelions.
They all played with these in different ways, including making cakes for a cafe and a rosemary-avocado pizza too!
Loose parts always extend the play possibilities and I love natural additions the best.
You could make even more shades of this play dough and set your little ones a challenge to match as many as possible using items from nature! Pine cones, pebbles, flowers, leaves, sticks, shells, sand, grasses and more. A photograph on display or in a nature book of what they found to match would be amazing!
I absolutely LOVE the shades of these natural dyes for play dough. They’re pastel, subtle yet extraordinarily beautiful! And of course no two batches will ever be the same due to how long you might simmer the dye for or how much of it you will add. That adds a much more interesting element for play too I think!
Which is your favourite of these natural dyes for play dough and which will you try first? Please let me know in comments below or come and find me over on Instagram where I share daily play ideas and answer as many questions as I can (as well as having lots of time-wasting chit chat!) Tag me if you try this and I will re-share over there. I really would love to see what you create! Please do credit me when you share. Thank you.