My kids love playing with Play-Doh. Frankly, I love them playing with it. It helps them be creative and is television-free entertainment (which I'm always for). While Play-Doh is not expensive, making it at home is extremely inexpensive. I can make it in tons of colors, the kids can choose their colors and I don't get frustrated if it gets left out and dries up.
Here's how I make my Play-Doh! Remember, having your kids help can be fun and is a way to involve them in the kitchen.
Here's the recipe:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 Tbs cream of tartar
1 tsp alum
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 cup water
(Note: Alum is very bitter and is included to keep your kids from eating the dough. If your kids don't eat things like that, or if you don't care whether they do you can exclude it.)
Put all this together in a saucepan. Add as much food coloring as you need to achieve the desired color (you usually only need a few drops). Mix together and heat the mixture until it clumps and becomes a single ball. This should only take a minute or two.
Plop the whole ball onto your countertop and gently knead it. This will help cool it down before you give it to your kids.
Viola! Play-Doh in about five minutes.
My kids' daycare provider makes play-doh for the kids and sometimes adds cinammon. The whole place smells good on those days, so adding cinammon or cloves or even essential oils may be a good way to infuse your home with good smells (or even as a type of aromatherapy) while your children are playing.