Playdough Mooncakes Mid-Autumn Festival Activity with Recipe!

Playdough Mooncakes - Mid-Autumn Festival Activity with Recipe!

When it comes to the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, mooncakes are the quintessential dessert. In just a few steps, this special dessert can be turned into a playful activity with playdough mooncakes for toddlers and kids.

Playdough Mooncakes with wood and plastic mooncake molds

Over the past few years, playdough mooncakes have been a fun family tradition.

Due to food allergies, we aren’t able to eat real mooncakes. So playdough mooncakes have been a wonderful way to introduce Chinese culture to our children.

Playdough mooncakes are a great way to practice kneading and shaping dough into the famous Chinese pastry.

You can simply use mooncake molds with Play-Doh, but I’ll also share an easy homemade playdough recipe that we love.

If you’re a visual learner, be sure to watch the playdough mooncakes video tutorial at the end of the post.

This article was originally published on September 13, 2018, and has been updated with new information.

Playdough Mooncakes - Mid-Autumn Festival Activity with Recipe!

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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.

Snowskin mooncakes are a super popular variation. It’s a no-bake dessert made of glutinous rice (similar to mochi ice cream). Snowskin mooncakes have a white exterior that is sometimes dyed. 

Our playdough mooncakes were inspired by the beautiful look of snowskin mooncakes.

Mid-Autumn Festival Activity: snowskin play dough mooncakes

Benefits of Chinese playdough mooncakes

In addition to being super fun, playdough mooncakes have surprising educational benefits, too. Yup, it’s true: language, science, math, and life skills!


Since we’re raising multilingual children, playdough mooncakes have become a fun opportunity to practice speaking Chinese while playing.

Play dough mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival

In case you are also learning Mandarin, here are relevant Mid-Autumn Festival mooncake words in simplified versus traditional Chinese.

  • 月饼 / 月餅 (yuè bǐng / mooncakes)
  • 冰皮月饼 / 冰皮月餅 (bīng pí yuèbǐng / snowskin mooncakes)
  • 中秋节 / 中秋節 (zhōng qiū jié / Mid-Autumn Festival)
  • 搓揉 (cuō róu / knead)
  • 混合 (hùnhé / mix)
  • 搅拌 / 攪拌 (jiǎobàn / churn)
  • 橡皮泥 (xiàngpí ní / playdough)

Math and science

  • 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 to add them to get the correct amount for the recipe.

Practical life skills

My children had tons of practice with pouring, kneading, mixing, cutting, and other important fine motor skills.

There was so much more learning than what I could capture in these photos.

If you can take a moment and step back, you’ll also notice all the great skills your kids practice through play!

Playdough Mooncakes - Mid-Autumn Festival Activity with Recipe!

Try this: 7 Fun Ways to Teach Chinese with Play Dough (VIDEO + Easy Recipe)

Supplies for Chinese playdough mooncakes

1. Mooncake molds

Hand-pressure mooncake mold

After testing out various food-grade plastic molds, this set of round mooncake molds is our favorite. As a language nerd, I love that it includes the 中秋 Chinese words!

If you’re going to get any set, the hand-pressure mooncake olds are the easiest for toddlers, big kids, teens, and grown-ups to use.

Wood mooncake mold

Wood mooncake mold with lucky Chinese characters
Wood mooncake mold with lucky Chinese characters

I couldn’t resist getting a beautiful wood mooncake mold!  This wood set has lucky Chinese characters: 福 (fú / good fortune), 禄 (lù / prosperity), 寿 (shòu / longevity), and 喜 (xǐ / happiness).

If you’re trying to avoid plastic, this is a lovely mooncake mold.

The downside is that it’s harder for a child to use it independently. It’s harder to remove the dough from the wood mold.

2. Playdough

Store-bought Play-Doh is perfectly fine for making playdough mooncakes. However, if Play-Doh nauseates you (solidarity! I can’t stand the smell…), make your own playdough!

Play dough is easy to make and literally takes a few minutes. The soft texture of homemade playdough makes it easier to mold into perfect mooncakes! If you need another reason to try making playdough, it’s also compostable!

Play dough ingredients

  • 1/4 cup salt (杯 盐 / 杯 鹽 / bēi yán)
  • 1/2 cup flour (杯面粉 / 杯麵粉 /bēi miànfěn)
  • 1 tbsp cream of tartar (汤匙 塔塔粉 / 湯匙 塔塔粉 / tāngchí tǎ tǎ fěn)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil (汤匙 植物油 / 湯匙 植物油 / tāngchí zhíwùyóu)
  • 1/2 cup water (杯水 / bēi shuǐ)
  • 2+ drops of food coloring (食用色素 / shíyòng sèsù) for pastel color; more for darker color

How to make playdough

  1. Mix water and food coloring
  2. Mix rest of ingredients in pot
  3. Add colored water to the pot with the other ingredients
  4. Mix thoroughly on low heat until contents solidify
  5. Let cool and knead

Tips for making playdough

  • Don’t add food coloring when the contents start to harden as it will take forever to blend well.
  • Add more oil if needed to soften the dough.
  • Sprinkle more flour if it’s too sticky.
  • Store playdough in airtight container in refrigerator
How to make homemade playdough

How to make Chinese playdough mooncakes

Here are step-by-step instructions for using the different types of mooncake molds.

With the hand-press mold

how to use a mooncake hand press mold

Method 1: Playdough snowskin mooncakes

  1. Choose your desired mooncake design.
  2. Roll the playdough into a ball.
  3. Put the mooncake mold over the ball and press the mold onto your board, baking sheet, or table.
  4. Press down on the plunger.
  5. Let go of the plunger and gently take out the mooncake.
playdough mooncakes stamping

Method 2: Playdough mooncake “cookies”

  1. Choose your desired mooncake design.
  2. With a rolling pin, flatten the playdough.
  3. Put the mooncake mold the dough.
  4. Push down on the plunger to “stamp” the playdough and release.
  5. Gently peel the extra playdough around your mooncake.

With the wood mooncake mold

playdough mooncakes with wood mold
  1. Roll the playdough into a ball.
  2. Press the ball of dough into the mooncake mold.
  3. Gently take out the mooncake from the mold. If your dough is warm and fresh from the oven, then it will be easy to imprint the shape and remove.  If the dough has cooled, you may need to sprinkle the wood mold with flour to prevent the dough from sticking.
  4. For cleaning, use a toothpick or brush to remove residue from the wood mooncake mold.

Voila! Pretty playdough mooncakes are served!

More ways to learn with playdough mooncakes

Here are some original mooncake ideas inspired by my children!

learn moon phases with play dough mooncakes for mid-autumn festival
Playdough mooncake snowman

Of course, kids being kids, there were some, um, less attractive playdough mooncakes that didn’t make it into the photo gallery. But each creation was very much treasured by my children. My kids had sooooo much pretending to be dessert chefs.

What matters most is that our kids have fun learning, not making Pinterest-worthy mooncakes.

Even after the Mid-Autumn Festival ends, my kids enjoy making playdough mooncakes at random times of the year.

I hope your family also has great fun making playdough mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival and any time they want!

Video tutorial of playdough mooncakes

What is your favorite Mid-Autumn Festival mooncake activity?

Please share in the comments below! We love hearing how other families celebrate special Chinese holidays.

More fun ways to celebrate Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

中秋节快乐 / 中秋節快樂 (Zhōngqiū jié kuàilè)!


  1. Jessica HUANG says:

    Hello these are beautiful. About how many moon cakes does the recipe make?

  2. Tam Nguyen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful activity! I love your recipe, it turned out great for the very first try😘 My students had so much fun making their own “moon cakes”!

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