Do you love play dough? Who doesn’t, right? We can still remember the first thing we ever made with play dough. Can you guess what it was? If you guessed a snake, you’re correct!

The invention of play dough was actually a fortunate accident. Way back in the 1930s, Noah McVicker created a substance that looked like putty out of flour, water, salt, boric acid and mineral oil. His family’s soap company — Kutol Products — in Cincinnati, Ohio, marketed his creation as wallpaper cleaner!

McVicker’s special putty-like substance was an excellent wallpaper cleaner, because it didn’t contain any toxic chemicals, could be reused and would not stain the wallpaper. Eventually, teachers learned that the wallpaper cleaner could be used as a modeling compound to make art and craft projects at school.

It wasn’t until after World War II that Noah McVicker’s nephew, Joseph McVicker, joined the company and learned that their wallpaper cleaner was being used for arts and crafts in schools. Joseph thought it would be a good idea to give the product a new name — Play-Doh® — and market it to schools, teachers and department stores.

The new product was an immediate success. In 1956, the McVickers started the Rainbow Crafts Company to make and sell Play-Doh®. Macy’s in New York and Marshall Field’s in Chicago began selling the product. The new company also began to advertise the product on popular children’s television shows, such as Captain Kangaroo. Within one year, its sales had already reached almost $3 million!

Over time, the exact ingredients in Play-Doh® have changed. As technology has improved, so has Play-Doh®. Although the exact recipe is a secret, Play-Doh® remains a popular modeling compound for art and craft projects, because it is still nontoxic, easy to use and simple to clean up.

Today, Play-Doh® is owned by a company named Hasbro that continues to make and sell the product through its Playskool line. In 2003, the Toy Industry Association added Play-Doh® to its “Century of Toys List,” which contains the 100 most memorable and creative toys of the last 100 years.

Play-Doh® comes in a variety of bright and bold colors. There are also a series of related products and toys that make use of Play-Doh®. Since its “invention,” over 700 million pounds of Play-Doh® have been sold around the world!

 

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  1. This was amazing, her orange play dough looked like ice cream! Yummmmmmm!!! But anyway, this was neat!!!

    • Good morning, “Wonder!” Thanks for letting us know you thought today’s Wonder was AMAZING! We liked exploring all the links to make our own versions of play dough. The one made with Kool-Aid® was extra cool!

      Did you know there is another Wonder that features something made with Kool-Aid®? It’s Wonder #349 – Are All Pickles Sour? (http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/are-all-pickles-sour/). It has a WONDERful recipe for Kool-Aid® pickles! :-)

    • We’re glad you stopped by today’s Wonder and let us know something cool you learned by exploring it, Sydney! Thanks for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

  2. I like this wonder because I love to play with play dough. I think play dough is fun to play with because you can make cool things. Now I want to make play dough by using one of the recipes. I think play dough= Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!! I love play dough this is why I like to come to wonderopolis. This was the best wonder so far.

    • It makes us SUPER happy to hear that you enjoyed today’s Wonder of the Day® so much, Madison! You’re right…playing with play dough is LOTS of FUN! With all the colors to choose from, there are SO MANY cool things we can make with it! :-)

  3. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, PLAY DOUGH. I HAVE TONS OF PLAY DOUGH AT MY DAD’S APARTMENT. IT’S IN HIS ROOM, PUT UP FOR NOW BECAUSE HE HAS A DOG NAMED SHYLOH. SHE MIGHT CHEW UP THE PLAY DOUGH AND GET SICK FROM IT, TOO!

    I HOPE YOU LOVE PLAY DOUGH, TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    :-)

    • Thanks for sharing how much you like playing and creating fun things with play dough, Barbara! We think it’s GREAT that you and your dad keep the play dough in a safe place so that Shyloh doesn’t get to it. We hope you have a MARVELOUS Monday! :-)

  4. My little brother used to try to eat play dough, so my grandma got cookie dough that was colored, and put it in a thoroughly washed play dough container, and my little brother loved it and asked if we could put it in the oven and we said yes, it was pretty cool!

    Love,
    Hannah M. Kern :) :)

    • We appreciate you sharing your personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®, Hannah! It sounds like your family has lots of fun making (and baking) things together! We hope you have a SUPER day! :-)

  5. Hey Wonderopolis! I think this article is SO COOL!!! Did you guys know that I have like 20 containers of Play Dough?! Some thing I LOVE to do with Play Dough is smell it! It smells so good! I wonder what tomorrow’s wonder is about…………..

    • We bet LOTS of Wonder Friends would agree with you about liking the way play dough smells, Abby! Even some of our “not-so-young” Wonder Friends like the smell, because it takes them back to their childhood and they remember playing and having FUN creating things with it! :-)

    • You guys always share GREAT guesses about what you think the next Wonder of the Day® will be, Stefani and KD! We think you are AWESOME Wonder Friends! :-)

    • Hi there, Gloria! Thank you for sharing that you love play dough…we do, too! We appreciate you letting us know you love visiting Wonderopolis…that makes us REALLY happy! :-)

    • Happy Monday, Zach! Thanks for letting us know you enjoyed exploring today’s Wonder…we think that’s AWESOME! :-)

  6. We learned that you can make Play-DoH~Caroline
    You can make Play~Doh in different ways~Alle
    You can make it out of dough~Clayton
    Play-Doh was first made for cleaning wallpaper~Evan

    What we still want to know:
    Another recipe~Alle

    • That’s a really cool guess, Eli! We think WONDERing about Big Foot would be LOTS of FUN! We’ll all have to visit Wonderopolis again tomorrow to see if your guess is correct! :-)

    • It’s WONDERful to hear from you guys today, Mr. P. and Mr. Carroll’s and Mrs. Armfelt’s 3rd graders! Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today and THANKS for WONDERing more about that list of 100 toys! Here are some more toys that made the list:

      Yo-Yo
      Monopoly
      Silly Putty
      Mr. Potato Head
      Frisbee
      Hula Hoop
      LEGO Building Sets
      Barbie
      Etch-A-Sketch
      Easy Bake Oven
      Rubik’s Cube
      Super Soaker
      K’NEX Building Sets
      Groovy Girls
      LeapPad

      It’s SUPER FUN to learn about so many GREAT toys! :-)

    • Your comment ROCKS, Caelah! We always appreciate your positive attitude and enthusiasm for WONDER! We hope you have an AWESOME day! :-)

  7. I love play dough because I make pizza out of it and I make masks out of play dough and I make my own play dough. One time, I used it for a bowling game but it did not work. I made a bug with blue, red, yellow, and green play dough. There is a lot more, but now you know a few things that I do with play dough.

    • All of those things you have made with play dough are AMAZING, Lucas! Thanks so much for sharing them with everyone in Wonderopolis today! We’re glad you stopped by today’s Wonder! :-)

    • Hi, Caelah! Thanks for leaving us another SUPER comment and asking us to explain something from our last reply to you! When we say you have a “positive” attitude, we mean you are excited and happy about learning! We really like that about you! :-)

    • We appreciate you sharing your personal connection to this Wonder, Amos! Tell your brothers we like play dough, too! We hope you ALL have a WONDERful day! :-)

  8. Hotel
    India

    Whiskey
    Oscar
    November
    Delta
    Echo
    Romeo
    Oscar
    Papa
    Oscar
    Lima
    India
    Syria

    Romeo
    Echo
    Mike
    Echo
    Mike
    Bravo
    Echo
    Romeo

    Tango
    Hotel
    India
    Syria
    ?

  9. We LOVE Play-Doh! Miss Kirsten loves to make Cherry Watermelon Kool-Aid play-doh! It’s awesome!

    Maybe tomorrow’s Wonder is about dreams…

    • We think Cherry Watermelon Kool-Aid® play dough sounds AMAZING, Miss Kirsten’s Kindergarten GT Class! We bet it smells AWESOME, too! Thanks for letting us know what you think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about…we like your guess very much! :-)

    • Hello, “Wonder!” Thanks for letting us know you love play dough! We’re glad you visited today’s Wonder and left us a comment to let us know you stopped by! :-)

  10. Dear Wonderopolis,
    We never knew the invention of play-doh was an accident! It is funny that it was wall paper cleaner! We never knew that you can even make play-doh out of kool-aid! You can make so many things out of play-doh! We are wondering about tomorrow’s wonder. What is afoot? It it like what is connected to our leg? Is it like the measurment? Could it be a football? Is it something different? We can’t wait to know!

    Thanks for the wonders!

    • You guys asked some SUPER questions about the clue for tomorrow’s Wonder, Room 4-First Grade! When something is “afoot,” that means it’s about to happen or is just happening. We think we might understand that little play on words from the clue a little better when we visit tomorrow’s Wonder…we can’t WAIT! :-)

    • We thought so, too, Haylee! We also thought it was awesome that Finn made his brother’s name out of play dough first before he made his own! Thanks for being a SUPER Wonder Friend and leaving us a comment today! :-)

    • Hi, Chance! Thanks for letting us know what you thought about today’s Wonder. We appreciate your comment and your opinion! We hope you will give WONDERing in Wonderopolis another chance tomorrow! :-)

  11. I think play dough was invented for like models of houses to make sure something is built right. Also, it could be made just to define ideas for buildings or other structures like a sky scraper or a under ground science lab! Or it could be for fun a games to play with or something else!!!

    • Those are all GREAT uses for play dough, Bryce! Thanks for sharing your creative thoughts with us today…they ROCK! :-)

    • Many Wonder Friends (just like YOU!) have GREAT memories of playing with play dough when they were younger, Cupcake! Many of those same Wonder Friends (including many of us here in Wonderopolis!) still like to play with play dough because it’s SO MUCH FUN to create, shape, and build with! :-)

  12. Play dough is soft. (Josie)

    Play dough is fun because you can make things like a house or a shape. (Michael)

    Have a great day Wonderopolis.

    xoxo – KF Dragons!

    • Awwww, thanks for the hugs and kisses, guys! We think our KF Dragons buddies ROCK and we’re REALLY glad you guys like learning new things in Wonderopolis as much as we do! Thanks for sharing what you learned by visiting today’s Wonder, Josie and Michael! :-)

    • Hi, Camille! We hope you’ll explore today’s Wonder to find out who invented play dough…it’s a really interesting tale! :-)

  13. When we used to buy it, my brother use to say well, come on then, acting like it was dinner. He ate it once. Well, BYEEEEE WONDEROPOLIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • We think it’s AWESOME that you shared your personal connection to today’s Wonder of the Day® about play dough, Emily! Thanks for doing that…have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • You’ve got it, Caelah! We know you’re not a negative person because your comments are always so happy and enthusiastic! We appreciate your POSITIVITY! :-)

  14. Sorry we were late today, we had a field trip! One of our student’s cousins makes Play-Doh creations with friends. We have all used Play-Doh and some of us have tasted it GROSSSS! Do you know why Play-Doh dries out? We are hoping tomorrow’s wonder is about Bigfoot. Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

    • We hope you guys had LOTS of fun on your field trip, Mr. Draper’s Class! We LOVE field trips because they are perfect times to WONDER about the world around us! That’s really neat that one of your classmate’s cousins builds Play-Doh® creations…COOL!

      We’re not sure why some play doughs dry out. We have a feeling it’s because of the ingredients, but we will have to WONDER some more about that! :-)

  15. We love today’s wonder on account of D played with play dough today and made a present for Mother’s Day. We love your site.
    Keep Wondering. ;)

    • Hello, D and M and S! We’re so happy you guys stopped by to learn about play dough with us today! Thanks so much for sharing about D’s awesome play dough Mother’s Day present…we bet it’s AWESOME! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your comment with us today, Chris! There are LOTS of cool, creative, WONDERful reasons to play with play dough! It’s a really fun activity to share with your family and friends! :-)

    • It sure is fun to play with, isn’t it, Reilly? Thanks for leaving us this GREAT comment today! :-)

    • We think “squooshy” is a WONDERful way to describe play dough, Emma! We’re glad you stopped by today’s Wonder to let us know what you think! :-)

  16. This wasn’t one of my favorite Wonders. But that doesn’t mean I don’t LOVE Wonderopolis!

    I don’t know what tomorrow’s Wonder is about.

    Have a WONDERful evening!!!!!!

    8)

    • We appreciate your opinion about today’s wonder, Annie! Thank you for letting us know what you think! We hope you have a GREAT day tomorrow and a WONDERful rest of the week! :-)

    • We also thought the boys in the video for today’s Wonder were super cute, Pandakin! We thought they were smart and very nice to each other, too! Thanks for sharing your comment with us today! :-)

  17. I bought a HUGE box of play dough with 24 containers with all sorts of colors and also bought another box but different colors. PLAY DOUGH IS SUPER COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • It’s GREAT to hear from you today, “Wonder!” Thanks for sharing that you have all those containers of WONDERful play dough to play with! That’s a LOT of FUN creativity just waiting to be opened and shared! :-)

  18. I LOVE THE DONUT BIT BECAUSE I NEVER KNEW WHY THERE WAS A HOLE IN THE THING, SO THANKS FOR TEACHING ME A LESSON.

    • Hi, Brinty! Thanks so much for leaving us this AWESOME comment to let us know you learned something new by exploring this SWEET Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • That’s a really great question, Xavier, and one that we haven’t thought about before! We’re not sure if people can have an allergic reaction to play dough. We’ll both have to do a bit more WONDERing about that one! :-)

    • We appreciate your comment about play dough and value your opinion, Marina! Thanks for sharing it with us! We’re SUPER glad you love learning with us in Wonderopolis, too! :-)

    • Hi there Michael, thanks for sharing your comment with us today! We Wonder if you and your brother ever play together with play dough? It’s cool that you have learned some new information about play dough– we bet you could teach your brother a thing or two about building some very cool play dough structures! :)

    • Hi there, Lara! We appreciate your comment– and although you may not like play dough very much, we’re glad you’re WONDERing with us! :)

    • Hey there, Sam! We hope that play dough doesn’t make you sick, but if so, we hope that you find another cool toy to build and play with! Perhaps LEGOS are a better option! You can learn about them here: Wonder #639– Who Invented LEGO® Blocks? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

 

  • Who invented play dough?
  • What is play dough made of?
  • What was play dough originally used for?

 

Wonder Gallery

play dough_shutterstock_44043907hChildrens play clayhVimeo Video

Try It Out

 

Did you know you can make your own play dough right at home? It’s true! There are different recipes and lots of fun ways you can make a batch of play dough with your friends. Just be sure to get an adult’s help.

Check out the play dough recipes below and pick one to try. If you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, you may need to head to the store first. Have fun!

 

Still Wondering

 

Visit Smithsonian’s History Explorer to check out the Pueblo Pots lesson to investigate the roles that pottery and water played in the lives of the Pueblo Indians.

 

Wonder What’s Next?

Wake up! Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is afoot. Don’t let it get away!

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