How to Make Cranberry Playdough

Cranberry playdough is one of our favourite playdough options for the winter months. Not only do the natural colours look gorgeous, it’s a great way to use the leftover water from any cranberry sauce you make at home.

the cranberry playdough is shown on a wooden serving platter with a selection of loose parts including buttons, jingle bells, red bead decorations and candy cane decorations

As you probably know by now, I’m a huge believer in following the seasons. Seasonal play helps children to connect to the world around them and understand the passing of time in a hands-on way. We create activities such as cranberry playdough as part of our seasonal rhythm.

To my followers in the United States, I hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your families tomorrow. And if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, this natural cranberry playdough recipe will help you to celebrate winter with some seasonal play.


How to make Cranberry playdough

For this recipe, we used our basic playdough recipe but substitute water for cranberry water (saved over after boiling cranberries to make sauce). As an alternative, you could also used the water left over from a can of cranberries.

a pot of cranberries boils on the stove. The water was saved to make cranberry playdough

Homemade Play Dough Care Tips

To make the cranberry playdough last longer, here are four tips to try:


After spending the first half of the year in Austria without being able to source cream of tartar, I can honestly say that it makes the biggest difference in the success of the play dough. We tried using lemon or lime juice instead but it just wasn’t the same. I’ve since started bulk ordering cream of tartar from Amazon (is that crazy?!) and it’s made the biggest difference!

Without cream of tartar, the dough would get crumbly fast, but now we have lovely soft, smooth play dough again – yay!


You’ve gone to the effort of making the play dough, you need to store in correctly. We tend to wrap ours in ziplock bags (which we reuse for new batches) then we seal the dough inside a IKEA GLIS container.

Generally speaking, keeping the dough in a cool dry place will be enough to make it last for up to 4 weeks. However, in the summer we have occasionally kept the dough in the fridge to stop it from going sticky.

What to do with dry dough:

If your child has been playing for some time with the cranberry playdough then it is likely to get dry. If needed at the end of a play session, we add a drop or two of water or a teaspoon of oil to the dough using a pipette to revive it. Works like a charm!

How to prevent sticky dough:

When making dough, the best thing we’ve found is to knead it by hand to get all of the stickiness out. If you’re still finding the texture a little too much on the sticky side however, keep rolling into small amounts of flour until you get the right, ‘springy’ consistency.


Age Recommendations:

a 5 year old girl sorts out cranberries. They were boiled to make cranberry sauce and the water kept to make cranberry playdough

As mentioned previously, my daughter was just over 2 years old when I first made play dough WITH her. Before that, she just played with the batches I made up.

You need to make sure that your child is past the stage where they put everything in their mouths. This will depend on the child. With my daughter, I could do all of these activities with her from around the age of 12 months yet her younger brother was around 2.5 when he stopped putting everything in his mouth!

To note, until your child gets used to these types of activities, you can absolutely guarantee a huge mess. This is partly due to the development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Don’t worry though, the more they are exposed to sensory / messy play, the tidier they eventually become!

Regardless of age, this activity should be done under supervision.

Activity Ideas for Homemade Cranberry Playdough

a small green plate is held up to the camera showing a ball of cranberry playdough that has been imprinted with a Christmas stamp. In the background, the wooden serving platter is visible

Play dough is such a brilliant resource for building hand strength and fine motor skills. Even if you child simply squishes and rolls the dough, it will be an excellent activity!

Cafe Play

To boost speech and language skills, try adding your homemade dough to a cafe scene. Use the cranberry playdough as ‘cakes’ along with other loose parts.

Print Making

Use a selection of loose parts and stampers to make prints in the dough.

As part of an Invitation

Using a snack platter filled with loose parts can really help inspire your child to get more creative. Place the cranberry playdough into the centre of the tray along with Christmas or Winter themed loose parts.

More Sensory Play Activities

If you enjoyed this blog post on how to make cranberry playdough, you might also enjoy some of our other sensory play ideas too:

20 Simple Toddler Play Ideas for the IKEA Flisat Table 

5 Benefits of Sensory Play + How to Get Started 

10 sensory play ideas for Autumn 

Sunflower Sensory Play

How to make Lavender sensory rice 

How to make apple playdough + 15 ideas to try 


Sian Thomas
an image of This Playful Home founder, Sian Thomas. The photo includes a photo of her daughter when she was around 18 months old

I’m Siân (rhymes with yarn), a play advocate, proud parent to three, and former teacher. My mission is to infuse more joy and less overwhelm into the lives of parents. Discover play-based activities with me that not only make learning FUN but also forge deep connections with your young learners, creating memories to cherish forever.