One of my favorite things to do with my kids is creative fun with clay, play-dough, modeling clay, etc. However, my kids are all very picky. Tobi doesn't mind mixing the purple with the yellow to make a flower... or dragon (I always just ask so no mistakes are made) but she's not happy next week when she only wants purple and they're all mixed together. So, I make my own and keep quite a bit on hand. You can purchase many many different types of food coloring at your local grocery. You can get box sets of pastels, neons, and basic colors. Each time you add a drop to this it changes the color slightly. Making your own play dough is also great fun with the kids, mine love helping me knead the colors in. They also keep well if put in the proper container. I occasionally enjoy canning so I use my smallest jars for play dough storage and I still have some from last year that's not dried out yet! I love this particular recipe because it even smells like the play dough I played with as a child:
3 cups flour
1.5 cups salt
6 tsp. cream of tarter (easily found in the spice aisle)
3 tbsp. oil
3 cups water
Pour all ingredients into a large pot. Stir constantly over medium until a dough ball forms by pulling away from the sides. Knead dough until the texture matches play dough (1-2 minutes). This is also when you want to add a few drops of coloring according to your taste. Be sure to line your work surface as food coloring will stain.
There's also salt dough ("salk dote" as bubba calls it) which can be left out to dry or baked at around 250 degrees to become permanent. Salt dough is a big craft staple at our house providing us with lots of memories and keepsakes. You can make ornaments, any type of figurine, keepsakes, and gifts. Some people add cinnamon to their salt dough to give it a warm smell and change the color a bit.
1 cup salt
2 cups plain flour
1 cup lukewarm water
Combine first two ingredients and slowly add water using more or less than what is called for to get a dough-y consistency. Keep a glass of water or juice on hand as kids are going to want to try it and as you can imagine it's not very palatable. This dough can be painted after it's dried or baked. Coloring and scent can also be added. This is a very basic recipe that can be molded to fit you and your child's needs. Not to mention, there's no cooking involved! I always let my little ones get elbow deep and help me mix this dough from beginning to end. It's always a mess but always a good time as well!!