Edible No-Cook Jell-O Play Dough (Without Cream of Tartar)

No time to make regular play dough? This easy Jell-O play dough recipe requires no salt, no cream of tartar and no cooking—and it also happens to be fully edible, which makes it perfect for younger kids!

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Before I had kids, I never would have imagined that there could be SO many different ways to make play dough. Lotion dough, bath dough, pudding dough… as it turns out, you can make play dough out of pretty much anything.

Our current favourite is the batch of Jell-O Play Dough that we made a few weeks ago. We’ve been leaving it out on the kitchen table every night so that our four-year-old (who is an early riser) has a quiet activity to do when she gets up. It is super soft and smells AMAZING.

That being said, if your kids are still very young and like to eat every activity that you prepare for them, you may not be comfortable with giving them traditional salt-based play dough. Or you may not have all the ingredients on hand (particular cream of tartar) or the necessary time to cook it on the stove.

Which is exactly why I developed this alternate edible Jell-O play dough recipe!

Like its counterpart, it has a lovely fruity scent (though it isn’t as strong because the cooking process seems to bring out the smell). But unlike its counterpart, it is made with cornstarch and requires no salt, cream of tartar or cooking.

It doesn’t have quite the same texture, but that’s part of the fun! Our kids loved playing with both types of Jell-O play dough and we will definitely be adding both recipes to our repertoire.

And because this recipe calls for cornstarch instead of flour, it is also a good alternative for kids who have coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity!

About This Recipe

Because this Jell-O play dough is fully edible and no-cook, it won’t last as long as regular salt-based play dough. It’s meant to be a one-time activity, though you may be able to make it last a couple days if you store it properly (see below for more details).

It’s also a bit messy, and the colouring from the Jell-O tends to come off on skin. That may happen less with sugar-free Jell-O, but I couldn’t tell you for sure because we only ever seem to have regular Jell-O on hand.

So if you decide to make this for your child, make sure to protect both their clothing and the surface they’re playing on. We keep our dining table permanently covered with a clear plastic tablecloth for precisely this reason. (We do a LOT of sensory activities and they tend to get messy.)

Finally, it doesn’t have quite the same texture as regular play dough. It can be shaped into a ball, but it’s crumblier and less stretchy—which is perfect for kids who love exploring different textures!

If you’re looking for something stretchier, less messy and longer-lasting, I definitely recommend this more traditional Homemade Jell-O Play Dough.

But if you don’t mind the mess and you would rather give your child something that is fully edible… or something that doesn’t contain gluten… or something that doesn’t require cooking or cream of tartar (since not everyone has it in their pantry), this recipe is a fun alternative!

How to Make DIY Edible Jell-O Play Dough (No-Cook Recipe)

Required Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to need to whip up a batch of edible no-cook Jell-O play dough—without cream of tartar:

  • 3 ounce package Jell-O powder (we used regular Jell-O because that’s what we had at home, but you could probably use a regular-sized box of sugar-free Jell-O, and it might even turn out less sticky)
  • ¾ cup cornstarch
  • 3-4 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Pour Jell-O into Bowl

Start by pouring the contents of a 3-ounce box of Jell-O into a medium bowl.

We used cherry Jell-O, but feel free to experiment with different scents and colours by using lime, orange, strawberry or any other flavour you happen to have on hand. (We’ve also tried raspberry and it smells great!)

2. Add Cornstarch

Add ¾ cup of cornstarch and stir with a spoon until combined.

3. Add Water

Add 2 tablespoons of water and stir to combine. The mixture will be a bit hard to stir, so feel free to combine the ingredients with your hands instead—I usually do because I find it much easier than using a spoon.

Add a third tablespoons of water, working it into the cornstarch mixture until it has spread throughout.

Crumbly wet cornstarch and Jell-O powder mixture in bowl

If the mixture is still very crumbly, add a fourth tablespoon of water and work that one in too. I used the full four tablespoons, but you may need less or more depending on the particular brand of ingredients you use.

4. Add Vegetable Oil

At this point, the mixture should have a dough-like consistency. (Make sure to add that fourth tablespoon of water if it doesn’t.)

Add in ½ teaspoon of vegetable oil, kneading it into the ball of dough until it feel nice and smooth. If needed, add a second ½ teaspoon of vegetable oil and knead that in as well. (You can skip the second one if the dough feels too wet.)

5. Adjust Consistency

Once the oil has been mixed in, test the consistency of your dough by pressing it together with your hands. You should be able to easily shape it into a ball.

If the play dough is still too crumbly, add more water. To avoid adding too much, try wetting your hands and kneading the dough until the water from your hands has been absorbed. I have found this to be a convenient way to add small amounts of water to cornstarch dough.

If, on the other hand, the dough is too wet, simply add a bit of cornstarch and work it in with your hands, repeating as needed until the dough no longer feels so sticky.

Once you’re happy with the consistency of the Jell-O dough, it’s time to play! Give it to your little ones and let them have fun with it.

If ever the play dough gets too dry, you can always wet your child’s hands a bit to re-humidify it. But keep in mind that because it’s made with cornstarch, this dough has a crumblier texture than regular, salt-based play dough.

The play dough held its shape pretty well and we were able to roll it into small balls in order to make a cute little Jell-O dough snowman. Our kids loved the unique texture of this play dough… and also the fact that it smelled like cherries!

They also decided to taste it, of course. Apparently it tasted pretty good. And while I’m not saying that you should encourage your kids to eat it as a snack, this taste-safe play dough is perfect for babies and toddlers who like to put things in their mouths, because you won’t need to worry that it will be harmful if swallowed.

It’s also easier to make than traditional play dough, and because it doesn’t require any cooking (or even heat), you can involve your kids in the entire process without needing to worry that they’ll burn themselves!

How to Store Edible Jell-O Play Dough

Because this play dough is made from edible ingredients, it doesn’t last as long as regular play dough. It also dries out pretty quickly, as play dough made with cornstarch tends to do.

To make it last longer, store it in a sandwich bag or airtight container in the fridge when not in use. You’ll also want to make sure that your kids have clean hands whenever they play with it.

If ever you find that the play dough has dried out too much, you can always try reviving it by working in a bit of water or vegetable oil with your fingers. But do try to keep your expectations realistic as edible play dough is really meant to be more of a one-time-use sort of activity!

If you’re looking for a more traditional Jell-O play dough recipe that actually keeps, you may want to check out this recipe for Salt-Based Jell-O Play Dough instead!

Hand holding round ball of Jell-O play dough in front of Jell-O box

Edible No-Cook Jell-O Play Dough

The Craft-at-Home Family
No time to make regular play dough? This easy Jell-O play dough recipe requires no salt, no cream of tartar and no cooking—and it also happens to be fully edible!
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Prep Time 5 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 box (3 oz) flavoured Jell-O powder
  • ¾ cup cornstarch
  • 3-4 tbsp water as needed
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil

Instructions
 

  • Pour Jell-O powder into a medium bowl.
  • Add cornstarch and stir until combined.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of water and work it into the cornstarch with your hands until it has spread throughout. Repeat with a third tablespoon of water. If needed, repeat with a fourth tablespoon of water. The mixture should have a dough-like consistency.
  • Add ½ teaspoon of vegetable oil and knead it into the dough using your hands. Repeat with a second ½ teaspoon of vegetable oil. (You can skip the second ½ teaspoon if the dough is too sticky.)
  • Test the play dough's consistency. It should be a bit crumbly, but easy to shape into a ball. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more cornstarch. If the dough is too dry, add a bit more water by wetting your hands and kneading until the water from your hands has made its way into the dough. Play immediately.
Keyword cornstarch, jell-o, play dough, sensory play, taste-safe
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