With summer vacation in full swing, the constant clamoring for more Play-Doh and finger paints may be ringing in your ears. While buying toys that require creativity and young hands rather than batteries is certainly preferable—here’s a better idea.
Homemade art and craft materials are all natural, non-commercial, inexpensive to make, eliminate excess packaging, and encourage creativity and resourcefulness. There is a bit of magic in seeing modest kitchen ingredients transformed into toy store favorites—and these recipes are as much fun to make as they are to play with afterwards.
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup soap flakes melted with 1/2 cup
Juice dyes (see below)
Make your own soap flakes by grating a bar of homemade hand soap (available at your health food store) until you have 1/3 of a cup of soap flakes. Combine the cornstarch, water, and melted soap in a bowl. Stir to blend. Let the mixture set until it has become thick. Divide into separate bowls and stir in juice dyes for color.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
Stir together flour, cream of tartar, salt and oil, and slowly add water. Cook over medium heat stirring frequently until dough becomes stiff. Spread onto wax paper and let cool. Knead the dough with your hands until it reaches a good play dough consistency.
Springy Play Dough
2 cups baking soda
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup cornstarch
Mix with a fork until smooth. Boil over medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat and carefully spread on wax paper, cookie sheet or a plate until cool. Play.
To Add Color or Scent
For an extra sensory addition to your art materials, you can add color and/or fragrance. These additions are food-based and fun!
Adding Color: Juice Dyes
Experiment with different foods: try berries, beets, walnut hulls, cranberries, or tea. Combine 1/4 cup of the food material with 2 cups of water and simmer over low heat for an hour. Strain if necessary and store in a covered, glass jar. You can also use the juice from canned beets, which requires no cooking. Straight turmeric mixed into a paste with a little water will give you a vibrant yellow hue. Once you have your dyes prepared, add to finger paints or divide your play dough into balls and knead in color.
This couldn’t be easier, just add a few drops of flavor extract, vanilla or peppermint extract for example, from your spice cupboard.