By JENEE OSTERHELDT
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Perhaps it's the way it squishes through your fingers.
Maybe it's the sharp scent.
Or it could be the creative freedom.
Whatever it is, Play-Doh is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and its makers aren't sharing their recipe for success with anybody.
It's definitely a mix of water, flour and probably lots of salt, because that's part of its signature smell and what keeps people tasting it. (Don't say you haven't tasted it.)
Hasbro exec Leigh Anne Cappello says the ingredients for Play-Doh are mostly the same today as they were when it was first sold as an off-white modeling compound in 1956. Only now there are plenty of colors. And this year, Hasbro is introducing a 50-pack.
Cappello says that aside from new colors, there have been "some minor tweaks to make it softer and squishier."
Part of Play-Doh's ability to grow with the generations is that it really is tested by kids and approved by moms, she says.
"From 2 to 102, people enjoy playing with Play-Doh. And it allows children limitless ways to express themselves creatively and to have something in their minds that is beautiful to share with their friends and family."
Aside from the secret ingredients and imagination factor, Brandon Faith Harrell says marketing strategies also have helped Play-Doh stay relevant.
"As a child, I didn't know there was any other clay besides Play-Doh," says Harrell, a 29-year-old metalsmith. "It was advertised so much, that when my teacher gave me this dough, and it wasn't in the yellow container, I was like, 'What's this stuff?' ... I like Play-Doh because it doesn't get stuck under your fingernails."
She says Play-Doh inspired her.
"It was my earliest three-dimensional media," says Harrell, who has created a Play-Doh dispenser, a Play-Doh-inspired incense burner and other Play-Doh-inspired pieces.
She also likes Play-Doh because it's not a gender-specific toy.
"It's one of the few toys that any kid can play with. And Play-Doh has a great formula. It smells good and you can taste it, and you won't die if you eat it. I never ate it but I liked to lick it sometimes," Harrell admits. "Who doesn't?"
Cappello says she has never tasted Play-Doh but says it is nontoxic.
How does she envision the future of Play-Doh?
"As long as it is squishing through the hands of children everywhere, it's as limitless as the compound itself."