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.)
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)
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.