There are moments when you need an emergency plan for keeping kids busy with crafts and art projects. It’s so much easier to turn to the pantry versus piling the family into the car to make a run to Target.

Plus when water color paints, finger paints, bubbles, play dough, slime are homemade, you know what the ingredients are and can always keep them on hand at home. Below, I have a list of ten key kids’ craft ingredients that you can print off that will make several of these DIY recipes below.

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Homemade Watercolor Paint Recipe

Homemade Water Color Paints

Grab a mini muffin tin and the following watercolor paint ingredients.

  • 4 tbsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • liquid food coloring

Watercolor paint recipe directions:

  1. Mix the baking soda and vinegar together until the fizzing stops.
  2. Add corn syrup and cornstarch.
  3. Mix until it has a uniform consistency. It will be crumbly.
  4. Divide into mini muffin tin, styrofoam egg carton, or plastic candy mold.
  5. Add about 10 drops of food coloring. Mix red and yellow for orange, red and blue for purple, and so forth. Stir the food coloring into the watercolor paint mixture with a popsicle stick, knife, or coffee stirrer. You’ll need to smash the color into the paste which is a little bit tedious. Eventually the paints will set to have a wet film on top.
  6. Let the watercolor paint set for a few hours or overnight.
Watercolor Paints mixture in a muffin tin
Watercolor Paints in a muffin tin

I like putting the watercolor paint in a muffin tin. You can fill one row of cups with the watercolor paint recipe and a second row of cups with water to wash brushes off in.

There are some advantages to putting water in the bottom or top row of a three-row mini muffin tin. This way, you can dump the water into the sink without it running over the paints. Otherwise, you can blot it out with paper towels. The muffin tin also allows us to store the paint for as long as we need to.

When it comes time to wash the muffin tin, run water over it to rinse out the cups in seconds for easy clean up.

The paint does dry a little bit lighter than it goes on originally, likely due to the cornstarch. I am really pleased with how vibrant the colors are though. Less water on the brush is more with these paints too.

4 Homemade Finger Paint Recipes (Analyzed)

My daughter and I tested four different homemade finger paint recipes using ingredients that we already had in the pantry. We found that each finger paint recipe had a different consistency. All were easy to make, but some took less effort than others.

DIY finger paint recipes for kids using ingredients you may already have.

It’s likely that you may already have some or all of these ingredients at home. I’ll give you the homemade finger paint recipes, show you what they look like on finger paint paper, and mention how they may or may not stain clothing. 

Though my daughter enjoyed making and playing with each finger paint. Of course, we do have a favorite. And, she enjoyed using a small paint brush to paint with in addition to her fingers.

1. Kool Aid Finger Paint Recipe

Whisking red Kool Aid finger paint recipe together in a glass bowl.
  • Ingredients:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 packs unsweetened Kool Aid
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 3 tbsp oil

Directions: Mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Notes: The finger paint was a little bit grainy but it smells good. It dries nicely, if not a little thick.

2. Homemade Finger Paint Kids Can Make with Cold Water

Whisking lumpy green cold water finger paint together in a glass bowl.
  • Ingredients:
  • 2 cups white flour
  • 2 cups cold water
  • food coloring


  1. Put water into a large bowl. 
  2. Slowly add the flour while your child is stirring (a whisk helps). 
  3. After the mixture is combined, divide it into smaller bowls.
  4. Add your food coloring of choice.

Notes: We made a big batch of green, versus a mixture of colors, since we were making so many other recipes. My daughter (3 yrs old) could not whisk this recipe fast enough to avoid lumps so I stepped in and gave it a whirl. It was still a little lumpy.

Older kids may become frustrated by the way this recipe paints. When finger painting, the paint puddles together and doesn’t stick well to paper. It’s hard to cover any real area with this paint. My daughter still thought it was fantastic, though it’s probably the least effective.

However, you’ll always be able to make this on a spur of the moment if you have flour in your pantry. I’m sure it will save me in a pinch when she needs to be entertained immediately.

Testing the green cold water finger paint and the red Kool Aid finger paint — the latter spreads better.
Green is the cold water recipe whereas red is the Kool Aid finger paint recipe.

3. Easy Corn Syrup Homemade Finger Paint Recipe

My daughter paints with blue cornstarch finger paint on a paper plate.

This is beyond easy, if you have corn syrup in your pantry.

1. Squirt some corn syrup in a bowl.
2. Add a few drops of food coloring.

Done and done.

Notes: This is sticky, but it paints very nicely. This corn syrup finger paint recipe will always stay a bit tacky whereas others will dry.

However, we really liked this recipe because, again, it’s EASY and paints nicely. I also read that you can use condensed milk and food coloring, or pudding and food coloring. I like pecan pie, so we usually have corn syrup around, but I know that some people have an opinion regarding corn syrup.

4. Cornstarch Finger Paint Recipe: Our Favorite

Painting yellow cornstarch finger paint recipe on a paper plate.


  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups water
  • liquid food coloring


  1. Mix cornstarch and water in a saucepan and boil until the mixture thickens.
  2. Allow the mixture to cool and then add food coloring.

Notes: It will start to look like this in the pan.

Cornstarch recipe thickening in a pan before food coloring is applied.

Next, you can separate it into different bowls and dye each a different color. We like this recipe because it has a similar consistency to store-bought finger paint. It dries without being sticky and is just fun to play with, though it can be a little gloppy (for lack of a better adjective). The colors turn our vibrant too.

The various recipes tested in spots on a piece of finger paint paper.

We put each recipe on the same sheet of finger paint paper. I made one more batch of green cornstarch finger paint and attempted to dye some cornstarch finger paint with natural food coloring using POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and a reduction made from fresh cranberries. It’s easier to buy natural food coloring than to create your own dye from fruit, despite the price, so I would recommend this.

Here they are on a new white towel.

The various recipes tested in a white wash cloth so that we can see how well the stains come out.

And, letting the towel sit like this for several days, I applied a few spritzes of Spray N Wash.

The towel came out of the washer almost completely clean, with the exception of a small, barely noticeable POM stain. It’s pomegranate juice, so I’m not totally surprised. How your finger paint recipe stains clothes depends on what kind of food coloring you use. We used McCormick’s and Wilton colors.

There you have it. In conclusion, your kids will likely enjoy any of these finger paints. It just depends on how much time you have to help them make a recipe and what ingredients you have in your pantry.

Homemade Bubbles Recipe

When you have a homemade bubbles recipe that works, it’s easy to whip up a batch versus consoling sad-faced kids if you don’t feel like running to the store for more bubbles. I’ve tried several recipes but this one seems to work the best and it’s so easy.

homemade DIY Bubbles Recipe

Homemade bubbles ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup of light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of Dawn dishwashing soap (regular Dawn is said to work best)
  1. Microwave the mixed water and corn syrup for 4 minutes.
  2. Slowly stir in the Dawn.
  3. Let cool.

What do kids do most, other than blow bubbles? They spill the liquid. If you have a giant container of homemade bubbles, if they spill, it’s less of a cost or supply issue.

Get a plastic beverage dispenser with a spigot and pour the homemade bubbles recipe into it. If the kids spill their bubbles or need more, they can serve themselves or you can help them. Just put a towel under the spigot to catch any drips.

If the container is glass or plastic, let the kids decorate it with Crayola Washable Window Markers. My daughter has attempted to color her favorite princesses all over ours. Except, I got lazy and didn’t funnel the bubbles into the container. Some spilled down the front, which is why Princess Belle and part of Ariel have gone missing.

Just keep in mind that if you do pour homemade bubbles into a drink container that you’d probably not want to use it again for drinks. They may wind up tasting like bubbles no matter how hard you try to wash it.

Save your bubble wands and bubble containers from party favors and other bubble fun. Reuse them with homemade bubbles.

Homemade Playdough Recipes

Homemade playdough on a green mat
blue homemade playdough

I‘ve been increasingly agitated by the mess that Play-Doh makes and am uneasy not knowing exactly what’s in it, though it’s labeled as non-toxic. 

My daughter’s preschool teacher always has big mounds of homemade playdough available for the kids. If it sticks to clothes, it always washes out. If little specks get into her mouth before we wash her hands, I don’t really care.

So, when I was the class volunteer mom, I finally asked for the homemade playdough recipes because they have a great consistency, kids love it, and it’s less messy (though not zero mess). Here is the recipe:

Kool-Aid Playdough Recipe

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 4 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 2 cups water mixed with 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 packs of unsweetened Kool-Aid

Mix together and cook over low heat. Allow to cool completely.

I once accidentally used Pineapple Kool-Aid, which I would not recommend. It turned the playdough kind of a cookie dough color. My daughter’s teacher used grape, orange, and other colors of Kool-Aid. I’ve seen some complaints online that grape Kool-Aid in playdough stains clothing, but I’ve never had that problem. Try putting a little bit of glitter in it too—kids love that.

This homemade playdough recipe would make a great inexpensive holiday gift for young kids. You can make multiple colors with and without glitter. The full recipe makes A LOT of playdough. I store it in an air-tight container when it’s not in use and just let my daughter use a little bit at a time.

Food Coloring Homemade Playdough

For more vibrantly colored (or blue, since blue Kool-Aid is hard to find) playdough, you can use food coloring. This is another excellent recipe.

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 cup water
  • Food coloring

Mix flour, salt, cream of tartar, and oil in a saucepan. Add water and mix well. Cook over low heat for a few minutes until the dough starts to clump and resemble playdough. Remove the dough from the pan and knead for a few seconds. For multiple colors, divide the white dough. Use a few drops of food coloring and knead it in. Add more food coloring until the desired color is reached.

In case you’re wondering, Wikipedia lists Play-Doh’s ingredients as the following: “Play-Doh’s current manufacturer, Hasbro, reveals the compound contains water, salt, and wheat flour while its 2004 United States patent indicates it is composed of water, a starch-based binder, a retrogradation inhibitor, salt, lubricant, surfactant, preservative, hardener, humectant, fragrance, and color. A petroleum additive gives the compound a smooth feel, and borax prevents mold from developing.”

Homemade playdough can be a little safer, especially for young kids who still suck their thumbs.

Peanut Butter Edible Playdough Recipe

For children who want to play with their food legitimately, try this super easy recipe for edible playdough made with peanut butter. Be warned that it is actually delicious!

Edible Peanut Butter Playdough

Edible playdough ingredients:

  • 1 cup of peanut butter
  • 1 cup of nonfat dried milk
  • 2 tbsp honey

Mix ingredients in a bowl until it’s just dry to the touch. The dried milk will absorb some of the stickiness of the peanut butter as it sits. Add more peanut butter if the mixture gets too crumbly. Decorate with chocolate chips, M&Ms, cheerios, currants, or whatever you have in the pantry. Presto, you now have an edible peanut butter playdough!

How to Recycle Old Crayons

Every household with kids probably has a few broken crayons lying around. Rather than toss them, why not recycle them into new crayons for even more kids crafts? Here is what you need to do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Slice up your old crayons into small pieces (I neglected to do this).
  3. Put the sliced up crayons into an old muffin tin. I tried silicone and it wrecked the pan.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Put the pan in the freezer for an hour if you’re having trouble releasing the crayons from the pan. They’ll pop right out.
broken crayons in a gingerbread man shaped silicon pan.
Recycle Old Crayons Kids Crafts

We usually bake a combination of mixed-colored crayons and single-color crayons. My daughter was particular about her coloring and gets frustrated by the mixed-colored crayons after a while. So, it’s good to have plenty of single-colored crayons.

How to Make Basic Homemade Slime

I wouldn’t let my daughter run all over the house with this homemade slime, but it’s a pretty cool textural kids activity. The recipe is very simple and there’s no need for total accuracy.

Therefore, a preschooler can make it themselves, if you supervise the food coloring part.

Homemade slime with cornstarch dripping off a child's hands.

Easy cornstarch slime ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Food coloring

Put water in a bowl mixed with a few drops of food coloring. Add cornstarch until the mixture seems dry, but is slightly tacky when you touch it. Add water if it’s too thick and cornstarch if it’s too thin. This recipe makes about a fist-full of slime.

Here’s the crazy thing about this slime. It is solid until you touch it or pick it up. Then, it liquifies. If it dries out, just add a few drops of water. You should be able to put some in your hand and let slime down into a bowl three feet or so below.

I would keep this contained to a countertop or other play area. The slime will leave a tiny bit of residue on fingers and whatever surface, but it cleans up very easily. Anything left on hands, basically falls off with running water.

Ingredients to Keep in the Pantry for Kids Crafts

If you would like to make the kids craft recipes above, keep this list of ingredients in the pantry so that you are always ready.

  • Baking soda
  • Corn starch
  • Corn syrup
  • Cream of tartar
  • Flour
  • Food coloring
  • Kool-Aid
  • Oil
  • Salt
  • White vinegar
  • Dawn dishwashing liquid

I put together a kids crafts recipe download designed for you to laminate (or not) and stash in your pantry. It is a combination of these our recipes all on one piece of paper:

  • Homemade slime
  • Homemade water color paints
  • Homemade finger paint (or favorite cornstarch recipe)
  • Homemade play dough

kids crafts recipe download is designed for you to laminate (or not) and stash in your pantry. It is a combination of these 4 recipes all on one piece of paper:

Feel free to download it here.  Enjoy!

*Photo credit: istockphoto/anaimd

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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    1. I have 3 grandbabies age 2 and under, and your finger paints, play doh, and water color paints work wonders with babies.

      1. Thank you! You are so kind to let me know! I have recipes for DIY bouncy balls and silly putty coming soon, which will be better for them in a year or so.

  1. I’ll post a pic (likely tomorrow) of what it all looks like dried. It will dry a little bit lighter, but still does the job.

  2. Good idea. I’m about to stock our craft cabinet that sits conveniently OUTSIDE so that paint and playdough don’t end up all over our house. I will be adding this to my bag of tricks!

  3. One quick way I found to make watercolor paints when my kids were young was to get a few packages of Koolaid packets and mix with just a bit of water. They loved to paint with it and they could “scratch and sniff” their artwork.


  4. Finally tried these with my kiddos. Of course, they don’t look a whole lot like your pretty rainbow of colors and they were not so crumbly……but they turned out similar to paint! (Which is more than I was hoping for with my skills).

  5. Do you have problems with staining clothes or skin? I’m looking for a way to make stamp-pad ink, too, but worried about food coloring staining. Thoughts?

  6. I mixed a pack of kool-aid and they smell fantastic. I added a little more vinegar and it was easier to mix…still set up the same. My preschooler class loved them and all natural and last much longer that the ones you can buy! Thanks for the recipe 😉

  7. Would it be easier to mix the food coloring with the liquids before adding the dry ingredients? I haven’t made it yet but the granddaughters are coming this weekend so I must try it!

  8. Hi I just found your site and must say it’s fantastic. I have grand kids and this will be a great cost saver. Plus they can help!!! But about using Kool-Aid for the coloring, I wouldn’t really suggest it because if it gets on the carpet it might not come out. (Especially the RED ones). I own a Carpet Cleaning Company in Phoenix and that’s the color that’s the hardest to remove.