With store bought dough I often had to work it in my strong hands until it was warm and pliable before the little ones could do anything with it. The last straw was when one of my kids got very itchy hands after playing with store bought dough. I searched online and really liked this video by Katie of Before and After TV which offers a clear demonstration of the process as well as a nice versatile recipe written out in the description.
Likewise, we use extra virgin olive oil in our food, so for crafts I get cheap vegetable oil.
I've found table salt in 4 pound boxes with a pour spout and keep one or two of these in the craft supplies.
This recipe, made with Koolaid, DOES smell wonderful, but, when we don't have any on hand (and since we don't buy it for any other purpose except play dough, that's more often than not) we just use a few drops of food coloring.
We skip the Cream of Tartar most of the time, it's used is as a preservative and we don't re-use our dough after a week anyway. The process of making the dough is so much fun and everyone wants to help knead it when it's fresh and warm to touch, so I don't mind tossing older dough in exchange for making new.
We have lots of fun with dough! A favorite game P.A. made up when she was about 6 was "Where did I get this print?" She'd take her dough to some secret place in the house, make an impression and then ask me to guess what it was. I loved the thought processes she went through creating the impressions and the game is still a favorite among her younger siblings.
Today, we had the Mr. Potato Head toys out before I made the dough, so it was inevitable that the two would get together!