DIY Totally Safe Art Supplies for Toddlers (and their older siblings)

Guest Post by Lisa of School at Home Mom.


As a mom of an active 21-month old, I am always looking for new ways to excite his curiosity and sustain his focus. Early childhood learning is so much about hands-on experiences and exploration, and art activities are a perfect way to delight a child’s senses.

Up until about last week, though, my little artist was still putting everything into his mouth – or coating his hands with everything and then putting them into his mouth!

So, I decided to hold off on splurging on art supplies and make my own food-based materials. This way, he could explore freely, and I wouldn’t have to constantly be on “DON’T EAT THAT!” patrol.

Most of our DIY supplies use only a handful of ingredients that can be stored at room temperature in a kitchen. Just about everything we use is something we’d want to keep around for baking or cooking anyway, and can be found in every grocery store. What could be easier?

Benefits of DIY (besides saving money!)

My son loves to make his own art supplies. He runs to the cabinet where we keep our projects stocked and opens it up, declaring, “Paint! Paint!” and eagerly gets his smock on so that he can help me mix the ingredients.

Some of the skills we can work on while creating and using the art supplies:

  • Cause and effect
  • Colors and color mixing
  • Opposites (wet/dry, big/little, open/shut, soft/hard, slow/fast, etc.)
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Hand & finger strength

If you have more than one child, these DIY projects are perfect! The older children can help to prepare the supplies in a more scientific way, observing how changing the quantities or process changes the outcome. The playdoh project uses more precise quantities, and would be perfect for an older child learning about customary units of measurement and fractions.

Kool Aid + Baby Cereal + Water = finger paint!

Kool Aid + Baby Cereal + Water = finger paint!

DIY finger paint


  • Small amount of water
  • Baby cereal
  • Kool Aid or food coloring

Procedure: Mix the dry baby cereal with water to desired consistency, then mix in the coloring.


My son's masterpiece, created with Kool Aid, baby cereal, and water!

My son’s masterpiece, created with Kool Aid, baby cereal, and water!

Fun with painting!

Fun with painting!

3/4 of the fun was making the paint ourselves. My son loves watching the powder mix into the water!

3/4 of the fun was making the paint ourselves. My son loves watching the powder mix into the water!

My son was never a fan of baby cereal, so we ended up with a whole open container of it that we didn’t want to throw away but couldn’t donate. Using it up as thickener for finger paint was the perfect solution!

Note: we do not drink Kool Aid, but we do keep packets stocked for use in projects. I order them in bulk on Amazon so that we can get a variety of colors, and they’re widely available in grocery stores too.

Kool-Aid (or anything else with food coloring) will stain hands and whatever else it gets on, so an old shirt or smock would be great. My son gave himself a red belly button from one of his early painting sessions before we invested in a smock! Personally, I don’t mind – I abide by the saying “If he got dirty, he had fun today!”

For kids who don't like the feel of finger paint, a piece of plastic wrap taped over it will let them explore and play.

For kids who don’t like the feel of finger paint, a piece of plastic wrap taped over it will let them explore and play.

My son loved using one of our basting brushes to explore the paint materials. And I didn't have to worry about contaminating the brush!

My son loved using one of our basting brushes to explore the paint materials. And I didn’t have to worry about contaminating the brush!

After a number of successful experiences, he couldn't resist touching it!

After a number of successful experiences, he couldn’t resist touching it!

My son actually hates the feel of finger paint, or anything else that is the least bit goopy or sticky. After he made it clear that he was not going to be touching the paint directly, I taped a sheet of plastic cling over the goop. Then he loved it! Later, I gave him a basting brush, and he got into moving the thick finger paint around with that.

Once he got the hang of the brush, I decided to move on to regular paint. My 2 ingredient recipe for that is next!

DIY paint


  • Water
  • Kool Aid packet

That’s it! Mix & enjoy.

My son LOVED watching the different colors mix!

My son LOVED watching the different colors mix!

The Kool Aid produces a vibrant color, especially if you use a slightly more concentrated amount.

The Kool Aid produces a vibrant color, especially if you use a slightly more concentrated amount.

The finished product!

The finished product!

After my son had an epic painting session involving like 8 packets of Kool-Aid, we ran out! So we substituted regular food coloring instead. He loved watching the drops of coloring diffuse out into the water. It turned into a bit of a science experiment!

Other paint making ideas:

  • Using water mixed with spices and flavorings
  • Using water with food coloring & salt, for a glittery effect

Another variation: sprinkle the Kool Aid on the paper first and then paint with water – your child will be able to see the powder mixing in a bit at a time. My toddler was mesmerized!

If you homeschool multiple kids: Your older children will enjoy writing secret messages in white crayon and then painting over it to reveal the hidden words! Or, how about a secret “math code” using number sentences or patterns?

Speaking of practicing math and reading, I’m a big fan of using manipulatives and hands on materials to make abstract concepts more concrete. This next project will provide a sensory experience for little ones, while your older child can use it to make numbers and letters, or even cut it up to model fractions!

DIY Playdoh

There are plenty of recipes for playdoh, but many of them use salt – which doesn’t work for my son’s eczema-prone skin. Here’s one that was gentler for him, and still used food-grade ingredients.

Because this recipe uses heat, you won’t want to prepare this one with your toddler’s help. Once it cools, you can enlist your child’s participation for mixing in colors.

Bonus: This recipe is gluten free, if that’s a concern for you.


  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Food coloring of your choice (if desired)

Mix the ingredients and cook on medium heat. Stir constantly and watch for when it begins to thicken. When it thickens enough, take it off, allow it to cool, and then mix in the colors.

This playdoh recipe is easy on sensitive skin.

This playdoh recipe is easy on sensitive skin.

My son was actually willing to touch the playdoh - big victory!

My son was actually willing to touch the playdoh – big victory!

The texture of this playdoh is soft and a bit sticky at first (if it’s too sticky, add more cornstarch). We were able to keep it in the fridge for several weeks. We allowed it to warm up a bit before playing with it.





Lisa of schoolathomemom.comLisa has been a special education teacher for 15 years and is looking forward to wrapping up her final months of her teaching contract so that she can homeschool her young son. She is also eager to help other homeschool families who can benefit from her years of experience working with children with many different learning styles, strengths, and needs. If you are new to homeschooling, her 100 Day Countdown begins on April 21, 2015! In addition to her years in the classroom, she has also traveled to 6 continents and participated in endangered sea turtle conservation projects and archaeological digs. Lisa currently works for the Museum of Natural History developing curriculum and teaching enrichment courses and camp sessions to children ages 5-10. You can learn more at her website,

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Welcome to the April Edition of the Homeschool Blog and Tell Linkup!

This is our monthly link-up that allows you to show off what is going on in your homeschool!

In honor of National Poetry Month, we’d love to see you share something poetry-related from your homeschool! Or just tell us what you’ve been doing this week, or any cool projects you’ve done recently.  Our theme this month is A Day in the Life of a Homeschooler, so if you have a post about your homeschool day, link it up in our blog hop here!

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Through the end of this month, link up your homeschool-related post and we’ll share it with our readers.

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Sara (58 Posts)

I'm a reader, writer, dreamer, wife, and homeschooling mom of 3 girls. We take a relaxed, eclectic, Charlotte Mason-leaning, Montessori-ish, literature-rich, delight-directed, almost unschooling-at-times approach to learning. Lots of unit studies, field trips, and lapbooks, too. I like to blog about our learning adventures (plus faith and encouragement) at Embracing Destiny.

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Homeschooling in London – A Day in the Life



Monday, March 30th, 2015

We’ve been living in South Kensington, London since last January. John is 10.35 and Christine is 8.8 years old.

While this is our final week here before returning to our New York home, and we are trying to savor the experience….this is still a very typical homeschooling day for us marked by online education, a lot of reading, and a little sightseeing.

5:00 am I’m at my PC working on my website and videos. I usually get up at 3 or 4 am but overslept.

6:00 am Inez (wife) is up and headed to the gym.

8:00 am John arises, eats breakfast.

8:30 am Inez leaves for the office. The princess, Christine, arises.

9:00 am Chrissy eats breakfast.

9:15 am John starts his Skype piano lesson. Chrissy takes her weekly bath/swim in the tub!

9:45 am Chrissy starts her math on the computer

(I am doing odd jobs, cleaning, laundry, dishes,….even working on the same PC that John has his lesson on. We have a dual-monitor setup.)

10:15 am Piano lesson ends. John reviews his corrected piano “exam”. He scored only 75/100.

10:45 am John starts chess exercises on

11:15 am Chrissy finishes math and starts guitar practice.

(We have NOTHING to do today, i.e. ZERO obligations. I am trying to figure out how we should spend our day. After 14+ months here, we are leaving in 5 days, first for an 11-day trip to Thailand, then back to our “home” in New York.)

11:20 am John calls up a game shop in Covent Garden. He makes a 1:00 pm appointment to play a game of Warhammer with a member of the staff there. It’s free. This is something John has been begging for.

11:30 am Chrissy does the last few pages of her cursive workbook.

11:35 am Chrissy gets back on her math.

11:45 am John finishes his chess and packs up his Warhammer pieces.

12:15 pm We get out the door with books to read, 2 Kindles, and my camera!

12:50 pm – 1:50 pm John was at the store playing Warhammer while Chrissy and I had lunch, and read, at Shake Shack ($30 for 2 burgers, 1 hot dog, 1 order of fries, tap water, and self-service!)

On the way back we stop at Raison D’Etre Cafe to visit the owner – who happens to be one of John’s “clients”. Click the link. John designed and set up that simple website for him.

Today he was extremely happy to get paid for his work – 40 pounds, roughly $60 at today’s exchange rates!


3:30 pm Arrive back home at our “flat”.

3:30 pm – 3:50 pm I set the timer for 20 minutes of “free time”. John chooses to read one of his assigned books anyway – Retribution Falls.

3:50 pm – Chrissy gets to work on her old blog. I say old because she started a new blog today. John is still reading but he’s on to the next book in the series – The Black Lung Captain. I am uploading all the video footage you saw above and now typing this blog post up.

5:15 pm I lie down for 50 minutes to stretch my psoas muscles….with headphones on, listening to a podcast. Chrissy sneaks off to her room to play.

5:50 pm John is still reading this whole time. He’s loving this book series. Inez comes home and starts dinner.

6:45 pm Dinner about to be served. John is on page 386 of the second book that he just started!

7:45 pm John is listening to this piano channel on YouTube.

8:00 pm Inez and I take a walk to the supermarket. John starts Khan Academy math. Chrissy practices the piano for 20 minutes.

8:35 pm The kids get a rare Monday night dessert – M&M brownies. We usually do no sweets Mon-Wed. John is on page 442 of his book now.

8:45 pm Kids are banished to their bedrooms for the night. Inez is spending time with them, probably packing up and organizing all their junk. I am finishing up this blog post which will be published in 1.5 weeks when I’ll be basking in 95 degree Thai heat.

9:54 pm Kids’ lights out. Big day tomorrow as we’ll say goodbye to all our home ed friends at our “Tuesday Park Day”.

Our typical homeschooling days weren’t always like this. We built up to it over time, with trial and error, by “stealing” ideas from others, and by relentlessly cultivating excellence in all that we do.

If I were to give any advice to homeschooling families starting out who are looking to create blissful and productive days it’d be this.

  • Eliminate completely the biggest time and brain wasters – TV, films, and video games.
  • Have your kids read constantly. You may have seen mine reading on the train, on the bus,…and they also read at restaurants, cafes, etc.
  • Use computers to learn almost as much as possible.
  • Take a hard look at all organized activities and constantly ask yourself whether or not they are worth the time and whether or not you could improve upon whatever benefit they provide.


Dan (9 Posts)

Husband to Inez. Father of John and Christine. Homeschool Coach, Accelerated Math Teacher. Former derivatives trader and future scratch golfer! Follow our learning adventures at

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