A Toy Never Played With . . .


I was looking through the weekly sales ads yesterday afternoon and making out my shopping plan for the coming week when I stopped at the Toys ‘R Us spread. Right on the front was one of the most elusive creatures I’ve ever encountered . . . a for real Play-Doh Playset.

I, like so many of my generation, love Play-Doh for its comprehensive sensory buffet. It feels wonderful squishing between our fingers. The colors (except the baby poo yellow) are vibrant and alive. Of course, most of all, is the SMELL. Nothing on the planet smells like Play-Doh. It is one of the most distinctive smells known. In one of those polls “they” always talk about but no one ever really sees, Play-Doh was supposedly the most recognizable smell among Westerners. Okay, I’ll go with it.

Now, I can’t verify any of this information. Everything I know about the wonder toy that is Play-Doh has been gathered third and fourth hand over many years of ardent and tiresome research. The reason I lack any empirical evidence on the toy of the gods is quite simple — I, nor any of my friends, have ever managed to hold a ball of Play-Doh long enough to form any lasting opinions.

As a child, I craved the Play-Doh sets I saw on Saturday morning cartoons. The Holy Grail for me was that dude that you stuffed the Play-Doh in his bottom and pushed a lever and strings of the stuff came out of his head as “hair” and you could cut it!! Unlike my cousin Josie’s Barbie dolls, apparently this “hair” could “grow” back after I scalped the plastic skull with a plastic razor. Alas, I was never to find out.

My mother is a saint. Growing up, she doted on me like a chosen lamb. She did, however, have one fault that threatened to slip a wedge into our relationship. She adamantly refused to allow me to have or receive as a gift ANY Play-Doh. In this stance, she was not alone. NONE of the mothers of my circle of friends would even think of entertaining the thought of allowing this dreaded substance into their houses.

No amount of reasoning could sway them. The stuff was non-toxic and biodegradable. Didn’t matter.

It provided hours of creative fun. Didn’t care.

No, Play-Doh was banned from my childhood for one simple reason.


My mother was convinced that any Play-Doh she allowed past her picket line into the house would inevitably be slurped into the powder blue shag (it was the ’70s, get off me) she was so proud of. Mama LOVED her carpet, even after I took a tube of bright orange lipstick . . . well, let’s leave that story for another time. Mama loved her carpet. Therefore, I was not allowed to play with Play-Doh. Every one of my friends got the same story, “you can’t have Play-Doh because it’ll get all in the carpet!!” My childhood passed never getting to enjoy the sweet fragrance of petroleum distillates on my hands all because of carpet.

I was not alone in my misery, however, as Budge related to me her trials and tribulations upon getting a nice 4-pack of Play-Doh for a birthday. Her mother relented and let her play with it . . . provided she sat at the table, which was over a linoleum floor and covered by three layers of newspaper. NEWSPAPER! Has anyone ever seen what happens to Play-Doh that comes in contact with newsprint? It’s not pretty.

It seems nothing has changed over the decades either. I was tending my next door neighbor’s house last week while they were all on vacation. The only child of the family is a wildly intelligent little boy who loves to play with blocks and trains and everything else. When I was scooping out some dog feed, however, I noticed — high on a shelf in the utility room — a Play-Doh Play Factory. It had a sticky note on it from the little fella’s mom to his dad that said,

“Don’t let Carson have this because he’ll get it on the carpet!”

Some things never change 😦

What about any of my two readers out there? What were your experiences with Play-Doh? Did you get to make the little hamburgers with the slice of cheese on top and the molded bun? Let me know in the comments if you got to have “hours of educational creative fun!”

Til then, love y’all and wash those feet!

2 responses »

  1. I didn’t get to have playdoh – probably for reasons like yours. A few kids I knew had some but it was “used” and the colors all mixed together so it looked like some nasty puce-looking rock (by then it had sat out too long). My biggest toy denial was not getting an Easy Bake oven. Man I wanted one of those!!

  2. I did have Play-Doh as a little girl and I too loved the smell. I can remember playing for hours trying to make the shapes of animals and things like I had seen on TV. I was not that artistic though. When I had my little boy (almost 16 years ago now) I let him play with Play_Doh and happily (not always) cut the dropped pieces out of the carpet. He loved it so much I just could not take it away from him. I did however develope an allergy to it as he got older. I can no longer handle it and squish it because my hands will break out. Don’t know why that happened! But I treasure my childhood memories as well as my son’s with Play_Doh.

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