1 Juniors Craft-Dough: A big thumbs up for Babyshop on a number of fronts. The cheapest of the bunch, we suspected it may not pass muster, but we were pleasantly surprised, particularly by the fantastic neon colours and the fact that we got five decent-sized tubs for a bargainous Dhs19. For those of us whose inspiration often fails to stretch beyond sausages and snakes, there’s a helpful picture guide on the box to get you started and a key to show you how to blend the basics to create different colours. Still deliciously soft after a month of testing, you can add a couple of drops of water or wrap it in a damp towel should it start to dry out.
Dhs19, Babyshop (04 266 1519).
2 Disney dough: We tried Cars – but you can get it in Mickey Mouse and Princess brands. A bit stingy on the dough, the colour combination in this set was a little uninspiring and the consistency was quite dry at the start, although it became squidgier with the heat of our hands. The real selling point for our little testers, however, was the dough multi-tool – a pen-knife style piece of equipment with scissors, knife, saw, roller, a wrench and other bits we ham-fisted grown-ups weren’t quite sure what to do with. The kids, however, loved it, sawing, cutting and making diamond-shaped splodges to their heart’s content.
Dough Multi-tool set Dhs59; two-pack (5oz) dough only, Dhs19, Hamleys (04 339 8889).
3 Soft Stuff: Now, we should confess, we’ve used Soft Stuff, ELC’s own brand, before and been impressed. So we thought we’d take a peek at their new Alien Adventures kit which looked – with its alien extruders, rollers, slides and cutters – like taking play dough to a new dimension in more ways than one. The idea is that you use the dough to create a host of alien buddies and then, with the extra toys provided, bring them to life in a story. We’re sad to say it doesn’t quite come off. The soft stuff was anything but and, if a mum with muscles works up a sweat trying to make alien hair, your average three-year-old is certainly going to struggle. Three tiny bags of dough do not an alien invasion make. This was disappointing. Stick to the Soft Stuff tubs sold separately.
Dhs75, Early Learning Centre (04 359 7709). Four-pot tubs available for Dhs35.
4 Play-Doh: The original and best, you can’t beat Play-Doh for gadgets. With the Magic Swirl Ice Cream Shoppe kit, we knuckled down to create ice-cream sundaes, complete with speckled sprinkle dough, which prompted lots of ooh-ing and aah-ing (and squabbling) from our team of testers. Squeezing out an oozing spiral of dough has to be one of the most pleasurable experiences we’ve had in a long time (saddos that we are), and the kids had a blast creating creamy concoctions covered with mini-fruits and gummy bears that looked good enough to eat (one thing you’ll have to watch out for). Our mini-moulder, who normally has the attention span of a gnat, was kept creative for almost an hour, so a big thumbs-up from us. The downsides? A victim of its own success, so much air-time means the dough dries out pretty quickly, and poking the crusty bits out of the ice-cream maker is a bit of a chore.
Magic Swirl Ice Cream Shoppe Dhs109, Toys R Us (04 206 6564) Play-Doh products are also stocked in Babyshop and other toy stores.
Why not have a bash at making your own play dough? It’s really simple, cheap, and kids can help choose the colours and stirring the mixture. Plus you can make it in sufficient quantities for epic dough designs.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 cup/225g plain (all-purpose) flour
½ cup/100g salt
2 tbsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup/225ml water with food colouring added
Few drops of vanilla essence (optional but it makes the playdough smell nice)
Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan, and stir over a medium heat until the dough forms into a ball. Allow to cool, and then knead until smooth. Store in a Ziploc bag with the air pressed out.