Playdough is generally considered non-toxic if ingested in small amounts. However, it should not be eaten intentionally. Large amounts of playdough can cause stomach upset and intestinal blockages. Supervision is recommended when children are playing with playdough.
What is Playdough?
Playdough is a moldable, doughy substance intended for fun, creative play. It is popular with young children. Playdough is made from flour, salt, water, oil, cream of tartar, and coloring. It may also contain preservatives and fragrances. Playdough has a smooth, squishy texture that holds its shape when molded by hand.
Is Playdough Toxic?
Playdough is not highly toxic, but it is not meant to be eaten. Most playdough recipes are non-toxic, containing basic kitchen ingredients like flour, salt, and water. However, larger ingestions can potentially cause problems.
Here are some key factors regarding playdough safety:
- Playdough is meant for modeling, not eating. It should be used for fun, creative play under supervision.
- Ingesting small amounts is generally not dangerous. However, it should not be eaten intentionally.
- Larger ingestions, especially repeated ingestions, may cause stomach upset or intestinal blockages.
- Salt content can vary. High salt levels may cause excessive thirst and nausea if large amounts are consumed.
- Some playdough brands may contain wheat or gluten, posing a concern for those with allergies.
- Toxic ingredients like borax are sometimes found in homemade playdough recipes, but not commercial brands.
- Choking hazard from swallowing large pieces. Supervision is recommended for young children.
So in summary, while playdough is considered non-toxic, it should not be purposefully ingested. Supervision is key to prevent excessive ingestion.
Most commercially-made playdough contains similar basic ingredients:
|Provides structure and elasticity when kneaded
|Adds texture and stiffness
|Binds ingredients together
|Softens the dough and prevents it from sticking
|Cream of Tartar
|Adds smoothness to the texture
|Creates bright, fun colors
|Provides pleasant scents
|Extend shelf life
These basic ingredients allow playdough to be safely molded and shaped. While the ingredients are non-toxic, playdough is still not intended to be eaten.
Potential Health Effects
Small ingestions of playdough are generally harmless. However, eating larger amounts could potentially cause the following symptoms:
- Stomach pain or upset
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dehydration from excess salt consumption
- Tooth damage from sticky, doughy consistency
- Intestinal blockage or bezoar formation
- Allergic reaction (rare)
- Choking from swallowing a large mass
The biggest risk is intestinal obstruction resulting from eating sizeable quantities. Playdough can clump together inside the intestines and cause a dangerous blockage, requiring emergency surgery in some cases.
While allergic reactions are uncommon, those with gluten or wheat allergies should use gluten-free playdough brands to avoid exposure.
Overall, the occasional small ingestion of playdough is not medically problematic. However, larger amounts can create issues. Supervision is key to prevent overconsumption.
Amounts Requiring Medical Intervention
Seeking prompt medical attention is advised for the following scenarios:
- A child swallows a large, throat-choking sized mass of playdough.
- More than a small taste is ingested, especially if repeated.
- Signs of intestinal obstruction develop, like vomiting, swollen abdomen, constipation.
- A child with known gluten/wheat allergy eats playdough containing these.
Call the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 if concerned about potential playdough ingestion. Prompt evaluation helps prevent serious outcomes.
Safe Use Tips
Here are some recommended safety tips when using playdough:
- Supervise young children to avoid excessive unintentional ingestion.
- Avoid playdough use in unsupervised settings like daycares or classrooms.
- Monitor portion sizes provided to each child.
- Store playdough out of reach when not in use.
- Make sure children wash hands after playing.
- Avoid homemade playdough recipes with non-edible ingredients.
- Do not allow intentional eating of playdough.
Proper supervision helps promote safe, creative fun when using playdough and reduces the chances of overconsumption.
Commercial vs. Homemade
Commercial playdough brands from companies like Hasbro are typically safer than homemade versions. Key differences include:
- Formulated with child safety in mind
- Non-toxic, food-grade ingredients
- Tested for quality assurance
- Consistent manufacturing standards
- Available in gluten-free versions
- Bright, attractive colors and scents
- Ingredient amounts may vary
- May include non-edible ingredients like glue, shaving cream or borax
- No quality or safety testing
- Often contains wheat/gluten
- Can harbor bacteria if improperly stored
For maximum safety, commercially manufactured playdough is recommended especially for very young children. However, basic homemade dough made with flour, salt and water is generally non-hazardous if consumed in small amounts. Proper supervision remains important regardless of playdough type.
Due to its soft, pliable texture, playdough poses potential choking risks for small children.
Here are some tips to lower the risk of choking on playdough:
- Supervise young kids closely during play.
- Avoid giving large balls or masses at one time.
- Watch for children placing pieces toward the back of their mouths.
- Teach kids to take small bites and chew thoroughly if playdough enters mouth.
- Have children play at a table rather than on the floor.
- Demonstrate how to pinch off small pieces of dough.
- Store playdough out of reach when not in use.
Choking can happen silently and quickly. Paying close attention and limiting portion sizes can help reduce the choking risk when playing with playdough.
What About Colored Poop or Diarrhea?
Vividly colored playdough can sometimes cause discoloration of stool or diarrhea when ingested. Common harmless effects include:
- Green stool from blue or purple colored dough
- Orange stool from yellow, red or orange dough
- Black stool from black, blue or green colored dough
- Loose stools or diarrhea
These effects are not medically concerning unless excessive diarrhea results in dehydration. The discoloration is simply from pigments passing through the GI tract. Encouraging water intake can help maintain hydration if diarrhea occurs. Call a doctor if signs of dehydration arise.
While stained stool can be alarming after playdough ingestion, it ultimately causes no harm in small ingestions. Of course, avoiding excessive consumption remains important.
Playdough Recipe Alternatives
Here are some ideas for making safer, more edible playdough recipes:
- Salt-Free Playdough – Omit salt from recipe.
- Edible Playdough – Substitute peanut butter and honey for salt and oil.
- Cooked Playdough – Cook basic flour dough on the stove to reduce raw flour risks.
- Tofu Playdough – Blend silken tofu with spices and coloring.
- Instant Oatmeal Playdough – Mix dry oats with cream cheese and powdered milk.
While still requiring supervision, these ingestible playdough alternatives can provide reassurance to anxious parents. Children are less likely to experience problems if accidentally swallowed.
However, even edible playdough should not be purposefully eaten. Supervision remains key to prevent overconsumption. Discourage intentional tasting, regardless of recipe type.
Making Edible Playdough
Here is an easy edible playdough recipe:
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons powdered milk
- Food coloring
- Combine peanut butter and honey in a medium bowl. Mix well.
- Stir in powdered milk until incorporated.
- Separate into smaller bowls and mix in desired food coloring.
- Knead each color batch thoroughly until pliable dough forms.
- Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator when not in use.
The honey helps bind the peanut butter while adding sweetness. Powdered milk boosts the protein content. You can leave a portion plain or add sprinkles, coconut, or other mix-ins for texture.
While ingestible, this peanut butter playdough still requires attentive supervision to avoid overconsumption. But it provides a safer alternative to traditional playdough.
When to Seek Medical Treatment
In most cases, small playdough ingestion does not require medical help. However, contact your doctor or call Poison Control if any of the following occur:
- A large amount is swallowed, especially repeatedly over time
- Signs of intestinal blockage develop (vomiting, swollen belly, constipation)
- Severe diarrhea results in dehydration
- A child has a known allergy to playdough ingredients
- A large mass causes coughing, gagging, choking or difficulty breathing
- Symptoms worsen or persist longer than expected
Prompt evaluation helps identify any complications or serious issues requiring treatment. Don’t hesitate to call Poison Control at (800) 222-1222 with any ingestion concerns.
The Bottom Line
While not highly toxic, playdough should be used under supervision to avoid excessive ingestion. Small taste-test amounts are generally harmless, but larger quantities carry risks of intestinal blockage or salt toxicity.
Feeding playdough to children is not recommended, but occasional small ingestions during play are common and seldom problematic. Offer safe alternatives like edible recipes for anxious parents.
Supervise play, limit access, and discourage purposeful eating to optimize playdough safety. Be aware of choking risks and seek medical input if concerning symptoms arise after ingestion. With sensible precautions, playdough can provide endless hours of imaginative, sensory-stimulating fun.
Playdough is a moldable, doughy modeling compound intended for creative and educational play. Though not highly toxic, it is not meant to be eaten and requires adult supervision. Small ingestions are generally well-tolerated but larger amounts can potentially cause intestinal obstruction or salt toxicity. For safety, supervise use, limit quantities, employ sensible precautions, and consider more ingestible alternatives. With adult oversight and awareness of choking hazards, playdough can provide kids hours of open-ended, imaginary fun.