This dirt play dough recipe is perfect for construction themed sensory play! My preschoolers have been loving it. Make some simple laminated play dough mats with roads and kids will have a blast bulldozing the roads and pretending to build!

How to Make Dirt Play Dough Give your play dough real grit by adding clean play sand. I didn’t want to put in actual dirt because I didn’t want to take the chance of growing bacteria in our play dough, but the sand worked well.

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How to Make Dirt Play Dough

Here’s how to make dirt play dough! It’s quite easy.


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cream of tartar
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • Brown food coloring – I used this Wilton brand brown food coloring
  • Clean play sand – relatively clean is fine. We didn’t wash ours or anything! But it was straight from a package of play sand.

*Note: The amount of play dough pictured in the play photos is a double recipe. The amount shown in the photo below is one batch.

Stir the flour, salt, and cream of tartar. Mix in the water and oil. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring often until it forms a ball. I use a nonstick skillet.

Let the play dough cool on the counter before coloring.

How to Make Dirt Play Dough

I kneaded in plenty of brown food coloring first, and then kneaded in some sand. You can add a LOT of sand to the play dough without it becoming dry and crumbly! I kneaded in about 1/4 cup at a time until I was happy with the consistency.

The play dough road mats are so simple to make! I stuck strips of car road tape to pieces of card stock and then laminated them.

How to Make Dirt Play Dough

Then it was time to play! I set out some small river rocks and Jonathan’s construction trucks as well.

How to Make Mud Play Dough

Pushing the rocks into the play dough is a good fine motor activity.

How to Make Dirt Play Dough

Janie and Jonathan spent forever with this! They enjoyed putting rocks in the trucks and using the trucks to push the play dough and make tracks in it. Perfect indoor activity for a cold winter day!

How to Make Dirt Play Dough


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  1. Fatima Jun 6, 2017

    thank you so much for this. Being a student and a volunteer teacher in a 3rd world country sometimes means that educational toys, etc are not as readily found and cheap as abroad. your recipe helped me create the play dough. i made it in orange colour, and cant wait to buy more food colours to have a whole range.
    thanks once again :)

  2. Sandra Graham Jun 18, 2017

    Love the trucks where can they be purchased from

  3. Melanie Jun 23, 2017

    I have two little guys and am always looking for activities for keeping them busy! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Jan Feb 6, 2018

    How do you store this dough for another day of play and how long is it able to be used?

    1. Sarah Feb 7, 2018

      We store it in a ziplock bag, and it will last for several weeks! If you live in a very humid climate, you might need to keep it in the refrigerator.

  5. Kk May 29, 2018

    Love the recipe...where can I find those road cards? Thanks in advance

  6. Leah Oct 21, 2019

    I am looking for the size of construction tot trucks you have. Where can they be purchased?

    1. Robin Cocking Aug 2, 2020

      Where did you get the construction trucks/toys?

      1. Nicole McGuire May 2, 2021

        I’ve purchased them at the Dollar Tree (local dollar store)


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