Homemade Non-toxic Finger Paints

| June 6, 2008 | 4 Comments

My husband has spent his life in the midst of paint, charcoals, canvas and the computer as a professional artist. He’s also always passing along his concerns about our daughter’s zeal with paint. Her willingness to paint herself from head to toe leaves Ken in pieces, concerned for the tiny person’s health.

I didn’t get it.

He’s given me the scoop more than once on how toxic acrylics and other artistic mediums can be. But, who would put major toxins in kids crafting supplies, right?

Well, it turns out that tempera – even something as seemingly innocuous as finger paints – are packed full of things that are REALLY bad for kiddos. Our paints are all labeled Non-Toxic, meaning they don’t have solvents. But, it ends up that the dyes in paints alone are considered of major concern.

Kiddos are particularly vulnerable, according to Healthy Child Healthy World, because their systems are still forming.

So, when I came across a recipe for Homemade non-toxic finger paints over at Green Mom Finds, I thought we’d see if the next step in greening our house would be ditching the store-bought paints.

The recipe that she passed along, in the end, needed some moderately heavy modifications in order to actually work for us. It could have been the soap or type of cornstarch we used. But, after a bit of tweeking, this new take on paint was a HUGE hit at our house, even giving finger painting a bit more of that Waldorf-inspired feel since our quick take on dye-making left the colours of a very pastel shade.

This is the perfect time of year to make your own paint since berries and other colourful gems are plentiful and great for dyes. The paint part is super simple and my big love was that, in general, we tend to end up wasting lots of paint. But, with this recipe, it seems to be just enough for one paint sitting.

It does have a different consistency than store-bought paint. But, our daughter thought the texture and thickness gave her lots of room to do something with paint she’d never done before – pile it on.

Here’s what you need:

For the dye:
- blueberries, cherries, onion skins and spinach (or for easy liquid dyes use pomegranate(red), grape (purple), greens (green) and carrot (orange) juices in their purest kind)
- Cups
- A strainer

For the finger paints:
- 3/4 C Corn Starch
- 3/4 C Water
- 1/3 C Grated Soap


Make dyes in advance. Night before for a morning project, or before lunch for an after-lunch project.

1. We put berries and greens in separate cups, smashed them up a bit and poured boiling water over each, putting a plate over each cup and letting them steep. We did for about 15 minutes. I recommend at least 30 minutes for stronger colours. The longer the better.

2. Take your bar of plain, natural soap (organic is best if you are going for true green) and a crafting grater (although since it’s just soap, your regular food grater would be fine.). I let the tiny person do a bit of grating. But, graters can really slice up little hands. So, supervision is very important with kiddos under age 5.

3. Combine the soap and water in a pan under medium low heat and let the soap melt in the water. Add corn starch. Blend well and set aside. The mixture will be thick. So, you may be tempted to add more water. But, adding the liquid dyes does thin it out.

4. Strain a portion of the berry, greens and onion skins into small separate containers (baby food, jam or other small glass jars are a great reuse here)

5. Portion the paint mixture into the containers. Mix and add more colour as desired.

Then you are ready to paint.

I HIGHLY recommend thick newsprint for this type of paint as it is thick and gooey. (You can get the good stuff from The Echo in downtown Courtenay)…and make sure to throw down a drop cloth under your painting locale as – if your kiddo is anything like ours – the paint will come pouring out of the jars and onto the paper, running, dripping and laughing all the way. No need (like I did) to let griping about the mess get in the way of good times.:)

If you want a thinner paint, try adding more soap, or more water.

Yeah for “green” paint.

Now, to figure out how to properly dispose of all of the toxic goo in the cupboard…hrmmmmm

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Category: ARTS & LITERACY, Crafts

About the Author ()

Robin Rivers is the Project Development Director for Vancouver-based Mherge Media Group. Often can be found leaping tall buildings with the help of great friends. Predisposed to odd hats and the color orange. In love with imagination, her kids and that crazy guy who married her.

Comments (4)

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  1. Sierra says:

    What a fantastic idea ! Love it !

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