月饼 (Yuè bǐng / Mooncakes) are Chinese desserts enjoyed by families and friends for 中秋节 (Zhōng qiū jié / Mid Autumn Festival, Moon Festival). Since mooncakes are high in calories and my son is allergic to typical mooncake ingredients, we decided to have fun creating homemade playdough mooncakes in addition to reading about Mid-Autumn Festival!
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 (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.
Our learning experience with 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 three tries to figure out how to make a soft, colorful playdough!
It was a fun exercise for me and my children (2-year-old son and almost 5-year-old daughter)!
There was so much more learning than what I could capture in the photos!
Both of my children had tons of practice with practical life skills (pouring, kneading, mixing, cutting, etc).
My daughter’s learning included:
- She was excited to measure the ingredients! And she offered suggestions about add more food coloring, oil, or flour to get the right result.
- Since she recently learned fractions, I intentionally chose smaller unit cups/spoons so she would have to add them to get the correct amount for the recipe.
- Cooking vocabulary (she likes to pretend that she’s Chef Tinrry [甜悦]): She used Chinese cooking words, such as 搓揉 (cuō róu / knead), 混合 (hùnhé / mix), 搅拌 (jiǎobàn / churn), etc. My son also tried to copy most words that she was saying and also learned a ton of new words!
The process was messy with my son participating but definitely worth it for the hands-on learning!!!
Both kids played for hours all weekend, and my daughter made dozens of playdough mooncakes!
What you need to make homemade 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. For some reason, my daughter only like 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 with the Chinese words or this set with the cute mid-autumn festival decorations.
- The downside is that it’s 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!
Home made 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 the homemade kind is super soft and perfect for mooncakes!
- 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 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 in the next photo, 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?
Playdough 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!
Related articles about Mid-Autumn Festival
To learn more about 中秋节 (Zhōng qiū jié / Mid Autumn Festival, Moon Festival), please check out:
- 15+ YouTube Videos about Mid-Autumn Festival! (CHALK Academy)
- 10+ Mid-Autumn Festival Books in Chinese and English! (CHALK Academy)
- Mid Autumn Festival – Montessori-Inspired Activities (Three Minute Montessori)
- The Mid Autumn Festival: What is it All About (Miss Panda Chinese)
- Mid-Autumn Festival Coloring Pages (Fortune Cookie Mom)
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)
To learn about other holidays in Chinese, check out these fun, hands-on activities!
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 in 2017
- 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 2017-2018
- Fun & Educational Chinese Activities – A How-To Guide
As always, please let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll try my best to answer them! Please leave a note in the comments!
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中秋节快乐 (Zhōngqiū jié kuàilè / Happy Mid-Autumn Festival)!