What clay was to Rodin — and butter was to Julia Child — Play-Doh is to preschoolers. Budding sculptors use the soft, pliable material to craft trees, flowers, and dogs; to assemble imaginary three-course meals; and to generate wild new creatures and outlandish inventions. In short, Play-Doh lets kids effortlessly follow their imaginations wherever they roam. Play-Doh skill may vary by age, individual, and experience-level, but there are Play-Doh sets for all. The best Play-Doh toys offer children basic tools that are simple to use, encouraging young kids to get creative and to work the small muscles in their fingers, the same ones they’ll use to hold a pencil and form letters later on in school.
You can make your own, or invest in the many varieties out there, which, let’s face it, is the easier route. The exact recipe is proprietary, but it’s basically flour, water, salt, borax, and mineral oil, and was first manufactured in Cincinnati in the 1930s. Because Play-Doh, by design, breaks down into small pieces, it’s suitable for kids 3 and up.
The Best Play-Doh Toys and Play-Doh Sets
A 24-pack of Play-Doh in every color of the rainbow, this epic set is something every crafty kid should own. If it dries out, add drops of water to moisten it.
Slightly weird, yet also weirdly cool, this set lets kids fill cavities using Play-Doh. By doing so, let's hope it makes going to the dentist a little less scary and a lot more fun. Kids can also brush teeth, which is always a bonus. The set includes five containers of Play-Doh.
When kids put Play-Doh into this bird, she makes odd sounds and lays eggs. That's really all you need to know. It comes with four cans, which kids can also use to help the chicken grow her feathers.
Little bakers can use this working mixer to make batter for cupcakes and cookies. The set comes with two stamp attachments, a decorating tool so they can add frosting, a spatula, a plate, two creation cards, and one can of Play-Doh.
A clever take on a classic firetruck toy: This one lets kids load the cannon with Play-Doh, crank the handle, and unleash water in the form of modeling clay to put out fires. Kids can also use the molds to make badges; the set includes five containers of Play-Doh.
A fantastic pretend play toy, this pizza set lets kids whip up the pies of their dreams. Or nightmares. They get five containers of Play-Doh, plus the tools they need to make the crust and various toppings.
To keep your Play-Doh messes contained, a crafting table is key. This one is 21 inches wide and 6.5 inches tall; kids sit on the floor when they play. The set includes 25 tools so kids can mold and carve whatever they dream up, and comes with eight cans of Play-Doh. When kids are done playing, you dump everything into the hinged doors for storage.
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