月饼 / 月餅 (Yuè bǐng / Mooncakes) are Chinese desserts enjoyed by families and friends for 中秋节 / 中秋節 (Zhōng qiū jié / Mid Autumn Festival, Moon Festival). Since mooncakes are high in calories and my son is allergic to typical mooncake ingredients, we are celebrating with homemade playdough mooncakes and great Mid-Autumn Festival books!
Playdough mooncakes are also a great way to practice shaping the dough for real mooncakes!
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What are Chinese mooncakes?
Traditional mooncakes are baked pastries filled with red bean, lotus seed paste, or salted duck egg yolk surrounded by a brown crust.
A highly popular variation is the 冰皮月饼 / 冰皮月餅 (bīng pí yuèbǐng / snowskin mooncake), a no-bake dessert made of glutinous rice (similar to mochi ice cream).
Snow skin mooncakes have a white exterior that is sometimes dyed.
Skills my kids learned from Chinese playdough mooncakes
This was my first time making 橡皮泥 (xiàngpí ní / playdough)!
Let’s just say I’m not a natural in the kitchen, and it took me 3 tries to figure out how to make a soft, colorful playdough!
There was so much more learning than what I could capture in the photos!
My children had tons of practice with practical life skills (pouring, kneading, mixing, cutting, etc).
What my almost 5-year-old daughter learned
From Playdough Mooncakes, my daughter learned:
- Measure ingredients, brainstorming about adding more food coloring, oil, and flour to get the right color and texture.
- Fractions; we used smaller unit cups/spoons so that we would have add them to get the correct amount for the recipe.
- Cooking vocabulary: Practice Chinese cooking words, such as 搓揉 (cuō róu / knead), 混合 (hùnhé / mix), 搅拌 (jiǎobàn / churn), etc.
What my 2-year-old son learned
On the other hand, the process was messy with my son participating. But it was definitely worth it for the hands-on learning!!!
My son often tries to copy what his big sister says, so he also learned a ton of new Chinese words!
Both children played for hours all weekend, and my daughter made dozens of playdough mooncakes!
What you need to make homemade Chinese playdough mooncakes
1. Mooncake molds:
Hand-pressure mooncake mold:
- The hand-pressure mold is very easy for a child to use independently! The shape comes out clean and crisp with no residue.
- We have this highly-rated set (similar here) with a mix of square and round shapes. My daughter only likes the round floral design and did not like the square designs. She also said she wished there were beautiful Chinese characters. Therefore, I wish we bought this set of round moulds which includes the 中秋 Chinese words.
- The downside is that hand-pressure molds are made of plastic.
Wood mooncake mold:
- I couldn’t resist getting a beautiful wood mooncake mold! I found this natural wood set with lucky Chinese characters:
- 福 (fú / good fortune)
- 禄 (lù / prosperity)
- 寿 (shòu / longevity)
- 喜 (xǐ / happiness)
- Apparently, the wood set can also be used to make soap, muffins, chocolate, and biscuits!
- The downside is that it’s harder for a child to use independently because extra care and effort are needed for removing the dough from the mold. If your dough is warm and fresh from the oven, then it will be easy to imprint the shape and remove. However, you will likely need to sprinkle the wood mooncake mold with flour. Then, gently peel the dough out of the mold.
- For cleaning, use a toothpick to remove residue from the wood mooncake mold.
2. Knife and vegetable or cookie cutters
3. Playdough of course!
Easy, homemade play dough recipe
Since store bought play dough is hard and has an unpleasant smell, I recommend making your own play dough!
Play dough is easy to make and literally takes a few minutes. The texture is much more soft compared to store-bought Play Doh, which means the shape comes out perfectly for mooncakes!
Because you can compost natural materials, homemade play dough is more environmentally friendly compared to Play Doh.
Play dough ingredients:
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tbsp cream of tartar
- 1 tbsp veg oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 2+ drops food coloring for pastel color; more for darker color
How to Make Playdough:
- Mix water and food coloring
- Mix rest of ingredients in pot
- Add colored water to the pot with the other ingredients
- Mix thoroughly on low heat until contents solidify
- Let cool and knead
- Playtime! Use mooncake molds and cookie cutters to create various designs!
- Store in airtight container in refrigerator
Tips for making playdough:
- Don’t add food coloring when the contents starts to harden as it will take forever to blend well! See Pinterest fail photo below!
- Add more oil if needed to soften the dough.
- Sprinkle more flour if too sticky.
Pictures of our pretty Chinese playdough mooncakes!
After the initial trial and error, we finally created beautiful, pastel playdough for our mooncake creations!
My daughter had so much pretending that she was a chef preparing dessert for our family!
Here she is chopping little pieces of playdough mooncakes with her little knife!
Next, my daughter wanted create a few mooncakes with different colored filling on the inside!
Then, she kneaded the dough and put it in the mold.
As you can see, the mold is just the right size for young hands!
Voila! Pretty playdough mooncakes are served! Don’t they look a bit like real snow skin mooncakes?
Play dough mooncakes: more candid photos of our experience
Here’s a close-up of the flour on the wood mooncake mold!
Notice that the heart-shaped 寿 mold has no flour. This is because I did not need extra flour when I used fresh, warm purple playdough.
My daughter collected all of her creations onto the cutting board and began to run out of space!
Time to get out another cutting board!
It was so fun to see my daughter come up with designs independently.
She used the rose mold to stamp the playdough and then cut out little designs with her mini vegetable shape cutter!
Even after the holiday passes, I have a feeling that my daughter will want to make playdough mooncakes day after day!
I hope your family also has great fun making playdough mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival and any other time of year!
What other activities will you be doing for Mid-Autumn Festival?
Please share in the comments below!
We love hearing how other families celebrate special traditions!
Learn about Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival
To learn more about 中秋节 (Zhōng qiū jié / Mid Autumn Festival, Moon Festival), please check out:
- 18 YouTube Videos about Mid-Autumn Festival! (CHALK Academy)
- 15 Mid-Autumn Festival Books in Chinese and English! (CHALK Academy)
- Mid Autumn Festival – Montessori-Inspired Activities (Three Minute Montessori)
Delicious mooncake recipes
Check out the following websites for delicious mooncake recipes:
- Mooncakes, Cantonese-Style (Amanda Tastes)
- Cream Yellow Brushed Mooncake (Tinrry)
- Custard Mooncake with Running Egg Yolk Filling (Amanda Tastes)
- Snow Skin Mooncake with Custard Filling (China Sichuan Food)
- Chocolate Snow Skin Mooncakes (Fortune Cookie Mom)
- DIY Vegan Mooncake (Medium)
- Vegan Mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival (Kimberly Elise)
How to teach kids Chinese
If you need tips on how to teach your child Chinese, these posts are for you!
- Raising Multilingual Children As a Non-Fluent Parent: 7 Lessons Learned
- Teach Your Child A Second Language at Home: 5 Key Steps
- How to Get Your Child to Speak the Minority Language
- One Person, One Language: Our Family’s Trilingual Schedule with 2 Toddlers
- Fun & Educational Chinese Activities – A How-To Guide