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Make Your Own Eco-Friendly, Nontoxic Art Supplies

If you've seen a toddler fingerpaint, you know you either have to put on old clothes or jump out of the splash zone as the paint flies. When the budding Picasso in the diaper uses about 1 cup of paint per square inch of paper, you need to have a lot of paint on hand. That means you could spend a lot of money on store-bought supplies. And although many art supplies are available in nontoxic varieties, it can still make us eco-friendly mamas cringe knowing our babes just got a mouthful of mysterious ingredients when we realize they took a generous bite out of that fake play-dough cookie when our backs were turned. And don't get me started on all the packaging that goes right in the trash!

The solution? Make your own eco-friendly, nontoxic art supplies in your kitchen. You'll feel like Super Mom when you're saving money, time and your little taste-tester's tummy because you will know exactly what is going into them, and most of these recipes can be whipped up in less time than it would take to go to the store.

Homemade Play Dough

Not only is this play dough edible (though it is not yummy, so sampling will be quickly discouraged), but it can be mixed up in about 10 minutes, and it lasts much longer than the store-bought kind. Easily store it in plastic containers, resealable bags or in recycled plastic containers from the store-bought dough (after it has dried out). If the homemade dough starts to get dry or is left out too long, just work a little water into it, and voila, it's as good as new.

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • food coloring

Yields: It equals about the same amount as 2 to 3 containers from the store. Feel free to cut it in half if you want smaller batches of several different colors.


In a 2-quart sauce pan, combine the flour, cream of tartar and salt. Then add the water and vegetable oil. Turn the heat to medium/low and stir constantly for 1 to 2 minutes until it is relatively smooth and the ingredients are combined. Add food coloring until the desired color is achieved and continue stirring as the dough thickens. Continue stirring until the dough begins to clump around the spoon and forms into a big lump, which is usually about 1 to 2 minutes after the food coloring is added. Remove it from the pan, and allow it to cool on waxed paper. After it has cooled, knead the dough to eliminate lumps.

Peanut Butter Play Dough

For kids who just have to taste their play dough creations, make a tasty peanut butter version so you can combine craft time with snack time. Just make sure they wash their hands first!

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey

Simply mix the ingredients together until combined. Let your tot roll and shape the dough, use cookie cutters or even decorate the child's creations with other snack foods like pretzels, graham crackers, chocolate chips or gummy bears.


  • 2 cups white flour
  • 2 cups cold water
  • food coloring

Pour cold water into a large bowl. Slowly stir the flour into the bowl. After it is mixed well, divide it into smaller bowls and add food coloring as desired.

Watercolor paint

This watercolor paint is very cheap and can come in virtually any color or scent your child likes. Get unsweetened drink mixes because the sugary variety will make a sticky mess!

  • hot water
  • unsweetened powdered drink mix of any flavor or color

Place a tablespoon of drink mix in a bowl and add a small amount of hot water at a time until the powder is dissolved and the paint is the consistency you want. Add more powder for a thicker paint and more water for a thinner paint. Mix and match flavors of drink mix to create new scents and colors. Your child's art will even keep the fruity smell after it dries!

Play-with-Your-Food Fingerpaint

This variation of edible fingerpaint is even fun for kids younger than 1 year old who are still exploring food, textures and feeding themselves. No paper is necessary; you can let them "paint" their high chair tray. For another fun twist, give your toddlers this paint and brushes and send them to the bathtub. They can have fun painting during bathtime, but you will need to give them an extra rinse when they are done!

  • plain yogurt or vanilla pudding
  • food coloring, powdered drink mix, cocoa powder or brightly colored fruit juices

Add the desired amount of yogurt or pudding to containers. Mix in food coloring, powdered drink mix or alternates. You can truly make this recipe your own. You don't have food coloring? Use chocolate pudding. You want scented paint? Add powdered drink mix instead of food coloring. You prefer natural food coloring? Try adding a little beet juice, carrot juice, grape juice or even baby food puree to the yogurt. Just have fun!