DIY Therapy Putty

DIY Therapy Putty 1

The majority of my test pins have a common theme: how to make therapy products that don’t cost a ridiculous amount.

In my latest quest I set out to find a recipe for DIY therapy putty. I use this stuff all the time- hiding objects inside, pushing pegs into it, cutting it with scissors – It’s a great (and always entertaining) way to develop hand strength for kids. My only issue is that it costs more than it probably should, so I figured a homemade recipe would be worth a try.

While searching on Pinterest, I found a link to this website with the recipe I was looking for: DIY Studio: Homemade Therapy Putty

It looked easy enough, just liquid starch and school glue in a 1:1 ratio, and then food color for added pizzazz. I ended up using about 8 oz. (2 small bottles) of glue and 8 oz. of liquid starch. A batch was under $3 total, with plenty of liquid starch left.

First I added the liquid starch and glue in the bowl (1), and started mixing it together with my hands. It started out very stringy (2), and I thought I had done something wrong already. However, the more you mix it, the more those fibers start to stick together (3). My biggest mistake was waiting too long to add the food color. I guess I had little faith that it was going to work out or something. Anyway, adding it at the end was a bit like mixing food coloring into a mostly done omelet (4).

DIY Therapy Putty

Side note #1: I gagged several times while mixing this little project together, and I didn’t even think I had tactile issues. The consistency in the beginning can be a bit gross, and might be something to consider if you are going to make this together with a child that has sensory processing issues. Even with the finished product there were a lot of children that wouldn’t come close to touching this, even if they didn’t mind regular therapy putty.

Side note #2: I thought it would be fun to play with the ratios of glue to liquid starch to see if I could make the mixture a bit firmer, like regular therapy putty. Adding more starch made the putty a bit more dense, but then chunks would simply rip off instead of being pliable, essentially rendering it useless for what I wanted to use it for. After a few tries, I decided to stick with the 1:1 ratio.

Once I had mixed it all together, I decided to compare my creation to actual therapy putty. The result? No comparison.

Putty comparison

Notice the difference in the overall stability of the two globs of putty? The DIY putty eventually spread out to fill the entire paper plate, while the regular putty (medium resistance) kept its shape. The DIY putty reminded me more of that Nickelodeon Gak I used to play with when I was a kid. Even Silly Putty is firmer than this creation.

However, since I had braved the gagging and messy hands, I decided to see what I could do with this putty.
-I hid some small beads in the mixture, but they were only hiding under a thin film. Not too much digging required here.
-I then tried to stick some “Lite Brite” pegs into the mixture, but they barely stayed in place. It was more fun just to take the pegs and poke a bunch of holes in the putty.
-This eventually just became more of a sensory task with the children. They liked the feel of playing with it and squishing it in their hands. While it could still be used for some fine motor strengthening, you aren’t going to get the resistance of the real therapy putty.

DIY putty activitiesSo no, I didn’t find a substitute for therapy putty. However, I will still say that I found a recipe for a fun sensory “goo.” I might not be making this for myself again any time soon, but I will definitely recommend it as a good activity to try at home.

About TheAnonymousOT

Pediatric Occupational Therapist
This entry was posted in Occupational Therapy, Pinterest Test Pins and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to DIY Therapy Putty

  1. We have made this before and I agree not nearly as firm as therapy putty. It is fun to touch and use though. The more you knead it the firmer it gets but we use clear glue – Some kids enjoy rolling it out and cutting it up with scissors.

    I have never tried it but maybe playing Borax flubber recipe may results in It is a little firmer then what you have pictured here.

  2. Sue Meyerson says:

    I made this with my own kids a few times, and they used their little “cooking set” that they got as gifts once, to play with it…it keeps for a while but eventually separates and gets kind of gross…we had many hours of fun with it, though…and cornstarch/water is another fun thing to play with…..

  3. Anonymous says:

    My child suffers from dysgraphia, and low upper body strength, on top of a fine motor disorder. He has used the store bought kind in the past. However, when it came into contact with an alcohol (hand sanitizers) or was heated, (the heat from his hands was enough) it became disturbingly sticky, and I have had to replace multiple pillows, bedsheets and carpets because of it. On top of this, every person that we met asked the same question “Is that gum?”, with this look of disgust and hatred on their face, even though they’d known him for mere seconds. I don’t want to kill him socially by giving him any more, but he needs a substitute. If anyone knows of a good replacement for these, I’m all ears.

    • kristy says:

      You could try an knead-able art eraser. It doesn’t spread or get as sticky as therapy putty. It doesn’t dry out either. You can sometimes get them at Walmart. I’ve found them at Michael’s craft store as well. I ordered a 36 pack from this company. Some of the scented ones smell weird.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks! :) I’m sure he’ll appreciate it. I’ve also noticed that the poster putty, (the stuff that you use to stick posters to walls and whatnot), is an excellent and cheapish replacement, although is still not as “unsticky” as I’d like it to be.

  4. ammcpherson says:

    Thank you so much for this review! I’m the daughter of a peds OT and an AT myself (athletic trainer), working mostly with performing artists. I’m always looking for cheap theraputty to send my musicians home with, so I’d been looking into some recipes to try — but all had very little to verify what the putty actually ends up like. So glad I came across this, as you’ve validated my fears!! For my patients, if it doesn’t have the right consistency and resistance, then it’s moderately useless for our goals.

    Again, THANK YOU!!! :)


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