Destiny Capps went through about five or six recipes before landing on the perfect play dough concoction.

She won’t share the exact recipe for proprietary reasons, but Capps swears by play dough made with unbleached flour, coconut oil, and cream of tartar.

“The coconut oil makes it really soft,” she said. “It actually adds a really nice scent to it. And it even is moisturizing when you’re using it on your hands.”

The bright-colored, sparkly play dough is the centerpiece of Capps’ sensory play kits sold through her website, Capptivating Play. Capps, a San Antonio event planner, focused on making the best play dough possible when she joined the niche market of selling kits designed to push children to use their senses and imagination. Sensory kits have been used for children who have sensory processing disorder, which means their brains respond to certain stimuli differently than most people. But kits like Capps’ also have been embraced by parents to aid in their children’s development.

“Sensory play, in addition to imaginative play, is very good for stimulating young minds,” Capps said. “It helps them with critical thinking. It helps them to develop their fine motor skills when they’re only playing with the play dough and manipulating the items.”

Sensory kits use different materials and textures to encourage kids to play without any real prompt, Capps said. In addition to play dough, the kits include plastic toys and cookie cutters with themes such as pirates, race cars, and princesses.

She made her first kits for her three children with items found around the house. She and her children – ages 6, 4, and 3 – were making play dough and she decided to grab some “loose parts” that they could add to their play session.

“The kids started kind of building and being creative with them,” she said.

Playing with the kits has helped calm one of her sons, who was recently diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, Capps said.

“It gives him a lot of joy if he’s really frustrated or upset,” she said. “It brings him down to a normal level.”

Capptivating Play’s space and unicorn-themed kits are displayed. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Inspired by how well her children responded to play dough mixed with other trinkets, she started making kits for party favors and as gifts for extended family members. With her event planning business on hold during the pandemic, Capps said she enjoyed the idea of creating a party in a box. Before officially starting her sensory kit business, she put out an informal call on social media, asking if any of her friends would be interested in purchasing a sensory kit. She had 21 orders soon after that.

“I got a lot of really great feedback and I got questions like, ‘Hey, are you gonna make more of these?’ So that’s kind of how it started,” she said.

In the two months her business has been operating, Capps said she has sold more than 320 sensory kits – many more than she anticipated. Many of her kits have already sold out, including her holiday-themed kits. She plans on closing orders on Nov. 29 to allow her and her husband to fulfill all the holiday orders placed; as of Nov. 19, she had more than 110 open orders that still needed to be completed, she said. She estimated that about 90 percent of her orders have been outside of Texas; most of her customers find her through Instagram.

Handily enough, she has a built-in kit focus group to test her products at home. Capps sometimes gives her children a new kit, watches them play, and makes changes based on what they liked and what they didn’t.

“They’ll play with it and if I see an item that I’m like, ‘they don’t play with that part,’ I might pull it out,” she said. “They have pretty much every kit that I’ve made.”

They each have a favorite kit, she said. Six-year-old Grayson likes the space-themed one, 4-year-old Emmett prefers the dinosaurs, and 3-year-old Evelyn loves unicorns the most. 

“My favorite kit, personally, is the ice cream kit,” she said. “When I curated it, I really felt like, ‘Oh my god, this is gonna be so much fun.’ I even found a mold so they can make a realistic-looking ice cream scoop.”

Capps said although she can see this business growing, she always wants to make sure it keeps its personal touch. Capps’ husband, Matthew, currently helps with budgeting and making the play dough. But she assembles the kits in cardboard boxes herself. 

“Our kits are made with a lot of love,” she said. “I get excited to pack these.”

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.