When I was a teenager, my older sister and I both worked as day camp leaders. I worked at a nice rec center with a huge wave pool, rock climbing wall, skating rink and lots of art supplies. She didn’t. She worked at a tiny rec center with a few multipurpose rooms and a small neighborhood pool. She made these finger paints for her camps all the time. On a rainy day, I decided to bust out her old and easy finger paint recipe and have fun with my three-year-old who loves to cook and finger paint. The result was a fun day with my favorite three-year-old and a surprisingly clean kitchen. So often we just make the paints or playdough or cloud dough but involving the kids in the making creates a deeper level of learning and exploration.
1/4 cup of cornstarch
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 cup of water.
food coloring or a little washable paint if you are concerned about staining.
This recipe is easily doubled or tripled for bigger groups.
Food color will stain hands/ clothes if not washed right away but the experience of making paint from scratch was worth pink hands for a few hours. You may not want to do this with nice clothes on or before family pictures. The alternative is to use some tempera paint in the place of the food coloring.
Start by mixing the dry ingredients. I measured out the ingredients for my daughter so she could do this independently and because I had JUST enough cornstarch that if we spilled too much, the recipe would have flopped. Planning ahead is not my strong suit. With a slightly older child getting them to do the measuring would be rad.
Mix. Your kids will probably notice what she did which is that sometimes the spoon gets stuck while mixing. That’s the cornstarch. If you have extra cornstarch while the paint is cooling, grab some and explore it in a shallow pan with some water. It’s a fun sensory activity.
Once it’s well mixed, pour it into the pot and warm over medium heat. I had it on low while she was stirring and then turned it up and stirred it myself. Also, I used a big spatula for her to stir with so she wouldn’t be too close to the warm pot. When it starts to thicken take it off the burner and stir. It will get even thicker as it cools.
I let it cool mostly in the pot then spooned it into the containers until it was completely cooled.
And go for it she did.
When she started painting her arms it was time for one last picture and to move on to washing up in the sink. Not only did this help get the excess off her hands it also got the dishes clean too. She had a blast cooking, painting , and cleaning. She was so excited to tell her dad that she made a painting with paints she cooked and I loved that she told him all about each step hours later. My intention wasn’t to have her do a retell of the activity but it happened naturally. I love watching kids learn!