Homemade Art Supplies

Any crafty momma has a stockpile of art supplies to keep little hands busy. Creating objets d’art, whether they’re dough spirals or crayon scribbles, is one of the best ways for kids to unleash their creative urges. And, hey, there is always room on the fridge for one more masterpiece, right? Here’s the catch. Most art supplies contain chemicals that you probably don’t want your child handling, much less putting in her mouth (let’s face it – play dough begs a nibble now and then.)

Even though you’ll find non-toxic labels on most art supplies made for kids, they don’t paint the whole picture. For instance, the “AP” label from the Art & Creative Materials Institute guarantees the absence of nasties like radioactive elements and lead, but it ignores other health hazards like phthalates and petroleum-based pigments.

Since chemicals seem to be lurking in so many containers these days, I find it comforting to head to the kitchen instead. You can cook up an array of art supplies at home with a few common, inexpensive, and yes, edible ingredients. It’s easy, and your kiddos will love to help create their own art supplies from scratch.

(P.S. Find a recycling center for your old stuff at Earth911.com.)

Beeswax Crayons

3 empty soup cans

1 cup grated bar soap (try DrBronner.com)

1 cup beeswax pastilles (available from MountainRoseHerbs.com)

Natural food coloring (try India Tree’s Food Coloring 3-pack from ChefTools.com)

Popsicle mold

Place 1/3 cup beeswax in each of the 3 soup cans. Set cans in a saucepan of boiling water to melt wax. Add 1/3 cup  grated soap to each can and stir until smooth. Stir a few drops of food coloring into each can. (Note: natural food coloring won’t yield the neon hues of chemical dyes, so think Monet rather than Warhol.) Pour into molds and let cool completely before popping out crayons.

Perfect Play Dough

1 cup flour

1/2 cup salt

2 T cream of tartar

1 T vegetable oil

1 cup water

Natural food coloring

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add water and oil, and knead until a soft dough forms (add more flour if dough seems sticky). Divide dough into 3 equal parts, form patties, and create a dimple in the middle of each patty with your finger. Add a few drops of food coloring to each dimple, then fold the dough patty and knead until color is evenly distributed. Voila – ready to play! Store in an airtight container in the fridge for months.

Fun Finger Paint

1 cup cornstarch

3 T sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups water

Empty egg carton

Natural food coloring

Combine all ingredients except food coloring in a saucepan and stir over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool before dividing into egg carton cups. Add a few drops of food coloring to each cup, mixing colors to expand your rainbow. Paints can be used right away with fingers or brushes.

Leave a comment 4 Comments

  1. Christy says:

    Thank you for the recipes. I’ve been making play dough for my almost 3 year old for well about 2 years now and we love it. Your recipe looks a little easier, I think I’ll try it tomorrow. And I’m really excited about the finger paint recipe. I’ve never tried to make paint before so I’ve been settling for Crayola paint and it has that terrible chemical smell to it, I can’t wait to try your recipe.

    The food coloring you recommend, does it stain skin? I’ve just started experimenting with making colored play dough because I’m afraid of staining. So far I’ve used turmeric to make a wonderful yellow and yesterday I used cinnamon to make a great smelling and nicely colored brown.

    • MaryJane says:

      Cinnamon and turmeric work great. Love the smell of cinnamon in play dough. The natural dyes won’t stain anymore than the two you’re already using. Happy homemade!

  2. Ellen says:

    When making this play dough, I add a little bit of vanilla to make it smell wonderful too.

  3. Meg says:

    Ellen~ a bit of vanilla is a great idea to make homemade play dough smell yummy!

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