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scented play doughAll three of my boys have a hypersensitive sense of smell.  They can smell things long before I can, and I think I have a pretty good sniffer.

I used to get asked on a daily basis by at least one of my children,  “Mommy, whats that smell?”Sometimes it was a pleasant smell, other times, not quite.

My boys struggle with certain smells.  They cannot tolerate perfumes, air fresheners, or cleaners.  However, if something smells good and pleasing to their senses, they will sniff it, lick it, touch it, and rub it on themselves.

To indulge my boys with pleasing smells, for scented play dough, I implemented The Kool Aid Play Dough Activity from Starting Sensory Integration Therapy.  This fun activity can offer a variety of scents and at the same time, provide children with tactile input.

The recipe could not be any simpler!

Ingredients for Scented Play Dough

1 cup flour
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 package unsweetened Kool Aid
1/4 cup salt
2 tbsp of cream of tartar
1 cup water

Directions for Scented Play Dough

Mix the dry ingredients in a medium pot. Add water and oil. Stir over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. When the mixture thickens and forms a ball in the pot, remove it, let it cool and knead until smooth. Seal in a ziploc bag and refrigerate to cool more. (1)

Make Modifications

If your child is allergic to the dyes found in Kool Aid, consider purchasing natural dyes created with vegetable colorants.

To obtain various scents, explore the wonderful world of essential oils and extracts. If you have a child who puts everything in their mouth – an extract would be the safer choice.

Play a guessing memory game of “Name That Smell”.  After you have made a variety of scents with your child, blindfold your child and have them sniff different balls of play dough made with different essential oils or extracts.  See which scents they can recall from when you were making them.

The recipe is very easy to make.  It only took about 10 minutes to make a batch.  When my son was three, he would make the batch with me and loved to knead the warm dough until it was smooth.  At that time, my two older sons would make batches of play dough independently – with my supervision.  They really enjoyed  all the measuring, mixing and stirring and experienced pride in being the “Play Dough Cooks”.

Tactile Sensations

In addition to the super sniffer benefits, there is a lot of tactile sensory fun involved too.  Once completely cooled in the refrigerator, the kids had a blast molding, smelling and even tasting the Kool Aid version of the play dough.  If you are using essential oils, avoid the tasting component unless you use extracts for baking such as vanilla or peppermint extract.

You can add tactile variety to the play dough by adding sand, rice, or beans after the play dough has cooled.

Gluten Free Version


½ cup white rice flour
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon cooking oil
Food coloring, if desired

Mix ingredients. Cook and stir on low heat for 3 minutes or until it forms a ball. Cool completely before storing in a sealable plastic bag. (2)


With great pride, my oldest son took his to school the next day to show his class his new creation.  My very artistic middle son made all kinds of creations with his play dough.  My littlest son simply enjoyed smushing it!

The boys continued to play with their Kool Aid Play Dough for years, changing things up here and there as we went along. I never had to buy play dough again since this was so easy to make.  The added benefits are that it’s non toxic, doesn’t stain or stick!


(1) Arnwine, Bonnie. sealable plastic bag Arlington, TX: Sensory World, 2011. Print.

(2) sealable plastic bag –” One Creative Mommy. N.p., 25 Feb. 2013. Web. 27 Dec. 2015.

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Christie Ann Boyer is a mom to three boys on the spectrum. She is a retired autism editor at OUR Journey THRU Autism and is currently pursuing a degree in Psychology.