Sunflower STEAM Activity with Homemade Playdough

Recently I wanted to try a new activity, making playdough. I know it sounds simple, but of all the activities we have done, I haven’t actually made homemade playdough yet. Since my kids are older, simply making playdough isn’t enough, we needed to come up with an activity that helped STEAM up our playdough. The result was these gorgeous Playdough sunflowers, perfect for a summer sensory project.

Homemade PlayDough With Summer Activity

A bright yellow playdough flower is decorated with seeds and craft items. Overlay text says Sunflower Playdough Recipe and STEAM Activity

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This activity is fantastic for exploring science and chemistry as we make our homemade playdough. Then we do some engineering as we build our flowers. The process of creating the sunflowers involves some wonderful sensory and fine motor skill development.

Sunflower Activity

One of the symbols of summer around here is Sunflowers. These gorgeous, massive flowers stand tall like soldiers, their faces following the sun. Seeing sunflowers is one of my favourite parts of summer. I have never actually planted sunflowers but I’ve had a few grow wild in our yard, and it always makes me so happy to see them pop up.

This makes them a great inspiration for this sensory science activity.

A Vincent van Gogh inspired Project for Kids

We are big fans of Vincent van Gogh around here. We have many books dedicated to his work on our shelves and we have really enjoyed including him our studies. Making these Sunflowers out of playdough is a great addition to a study of his work and life. Challenge your older kids to recreate his famous work using play dough.

Homemade Playdough

It is kind of hard to believe but after making so much slime, Oobleck and moon dough, we never really made any playdough. Our only experience making playdough was edible marshmallow play and edible fudge playdough, or our crazy popular Bubble Bath Playdough.

But regular old playdough? Nope, I’ve never actually made it.

But now that’s changing! I think we have a new sensory science play activity. My kids may be older, but that just means we get to make extra cool playdough projects. Like this Sunflower inspired playdough activity.

Plus the science behind making playdough is fascinating and ties into so many of our other science experiments.

How To Make Homemade Playdough


1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Golden yellow food or icing coloring


Time needed: 15 minutes

It takes about 15 minutes to make a batch of playdough and it can be stored for up to 3 months.

  1. Mix dry ingredients

    Add the flour, salt and cream of tartar to a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.

  2. Boil liquids

    Add the water, vegetable oil and yellow food coloring to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.

  3. Mix wet and dry ingredients

    Slowly pour the flour mixture into the hot water. Stir constantly until a stiff ball of dough forms (about 3 minutes). Allow the dough to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.

  4. Knead until playdough is soft and pliable

    Remove the dough from the saucepan and place on your work center. Knead the dough with your fingers for about 2-3 minutes or until soft and pliable.

  5. Storage

    Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Watch how we made this sunflower playdough

The Science Behind Making Playdough

In this playdough recipe, your dry ingredients, salt, flour and cream of tartar are physically combined to produce a ‘mixture.’ This means they are combined without any chemical reaction occurring.

When the liquid ingredients water, food colouring and vegetable oil are mixed with the dry ingredients, they form what’s called a ‘solution.’ Cooking these ingredients (applying heat) creates a chemical change to the solution and a new ‘substance’, our playdough, is formed.

In any recipe, every ingredient has a purpose. If it didn’t have a purpose, you wouldn’t be using it. The way those ingredients interact involves some fascinating science as we make our playdough.

Flour contains proteins that, when mixed with water, change their shape and become more stretched. We learned about this in our bread science lesson. Salt allows this structure to hold its shape and also helps to prevent dough from going bad. Oil provides moisture so our playdough is soft and pliable. Cream of Tartar helps with elasticity and preservation.

Build A Sunflower Playdough Activity

Supplies To Build A Playdough Sunflower

Homemade golden yellow playdough (recipe above)
Green pipe cleaners
Green wooden craft sticks
Sunflower seeds
Dry black beans
Popcorn kernels (unpopped)
Yellow pom poms
Yellow buttons
Leaf shaped cookie cutter
Playdough mini rolling pin
Plastic knife


Remember, the best part about all of these challenges and activities is fostering imagination! If your child wants to create their sunflower in a unique and different way, encourage their creativity.

For the middle of the sunflower, take a piece of playdough about the size of your palm and roll it flat into the shape of a circle.

Using a leaf cookie cutter or plastic knife, cut out the petals of the sunflower and attach these pieces all around the center.

Cut 2 green pipe cleaners in half. Use one half piece for the stem and insert into the bottom of the sunflower. Use 2 other pieces as the leaves by folding in half and placing them on each side of the stem. Or you can use green craft sticks for the stem and use the pipe cleaner pieces as leaves.

As your child is building the sunflower discuss the different parts of the plant so they can start learning the terminology. Things like seeds, leaves, petals, stem, all start building important scientific vocabulary.

A bright yellow playdough flower is decorated with seeds and craft items. Overlay text says Sunflower Playdough Recipe and STEAM Activity

For more sensory and fine motor play, you can add a combination of sunflower seeds, black beans and unpopped popcorn kernels into the center of the sunflower. Use yellow pom poms or yellow buttons on the petals. There are so many different varieties of sunflowers that your child can make. This homemade playdough activity will give them hours of sensory and fine motor fun!!

Happy playing and learning!

Flower Math Mats Printable

Keep the learning going with these fun Flower Math Mats printable, free for all STEAM Powered Family mailing list members. Students will practice counting skills and develop early math literacy. Simply enter your email to unlock the printable.

A bright yellow playdough flower is decorated with seeds and craft items. Overlay text says Sunflower Playdough Recipe and STEAM Activity


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