Five Alternatives to Paint Brushes

Today I planned to mop the kitchen floor. I don’t know why that matters considering tomorrow it will once again see drops of paint, but I figured since I’m going to be scrubbing anyway we might as well make a mess.

As many of my friends know, I am the Napoleon Bonaparte of the revolution against bougie motherhood. If my kids are without mosquito bites, dirt under the fingernails, skinned knees, and splattered paint on their clothes…I start to wonder what I’m doing wrong. It’s unfair to expect kids to act like anything but kids, and I say we might as well facilitate some of the opportunities for them to enjoy childhood. Life is too short to be tidy. We survived our own germ ridden grubby childhood…our kids will survive theirs.

Sensory play is a driving force in the way kids explore the world, and inside every child is the creativity that makes an artist. At least that’s what I believe, anyway. Understanding these two aspects offers the opportunity for fun projects that, while messy, create interesting paintings you wouldn’t be able to recreate with a regular paintbrush.

Here are 5 alternative paint activities we’ve tried:

This one takes some overnight prep time, however, it’s super easy to put together.

All you need is an ice tray, food coloring, popsicle sticks, and aluminum foil or saran wrap.

It’s a pretty obvious process. Fill the ice trays with water, leaving enough room for food coloring, as well as space at the top so the different colors don’t slosh into one another.

Experiment with varying amounts of food coloring, as well as color mixtures for different shades. Use your popsicle sticks to stir the coloring.

Cover the ice tray with saran wrap. Or if you’re like me and completely incapable of working with saran wrap, aluminum foil works just as well. I simply marked out the lines of the tray beforehand so I knew where to find each slot once covered.

Poke a popsicle stick into the middle of each section of the ice tray, and carefully transfer the tray to the freezer. Let it sit overnight.

Once the ice is completely frozen, pop them out of the tray. Mine came out easily, however, you can also use a knife around the edge of each piece of ice if you’re met with a struggle.

 

As each piece of ice melts, run them over white paper to create watercolor paintings. At first not much will happen, but given a few minutes, the effects can be pretty interesting to play with!

This next activity didn’t require prep time, but of the painting activities we tried, it was the messiest.

All you need is paint, paper, and a fly swatter.

Yes…a fly swatter. Personally, we used brand new and unused swatters. But hey, do each their own.

The activity is simple. Drizzle paint on to white paper and then smack it with the fly swatter. Of course this splattered paint everywhere, but the kids had a ton of fun. Next time we will do this outside if I’m not already planning to scrub the floor. That will give us the oppertunity to be a bit more violant and crazy with our splashes.

 

 

The squeegee painting was a huge hit with the kids, and it also made an incredibly beautiful picture.

Once again set up was simple. We poured a line of paint across the top of a piece of paper, using two or three different colors.

Simply swipe the squeegee down the page, and the result is gorgeous.

 Bonus points for the fact that this was not especially messy compared to all the other activities we tried, with the exception of our marble painting:

The marble painting required only a container, paper, paint, and marbles. We placed the paper at the bottom of the container with drops of paint (once again using two or three colors). After dropping a handful of marbles on top of the paint we tilted and turned the container, causing the marbles to roll around and create fun designs.

This one tied with the squeegee painting for most beautiful. I can’t decide which one’s my favorite.

Our final activity was for the sake of pure fun and mess. This is where I set up and then stepped away, leaving the kids to simply play and see what comes of it.

Like the marble painting, I took some toys from the playroom in the name of art: Hot Wheels.

I set up the track from the edge of our art table, laying pieces of paper on the floor at the end. The paint was poured onto the track and the kids let their cars run over the paint, streaking the paper with their wheels.

This one was second in messiest, but also held the kid’s attention the longest.

 

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the new art we have for our fridge. Now it’s just a matter of waiting till the paint dries.

 

 

Dyed Sugar Cubes

My son has crazy good dexterity, and his hand eye coordination has a tendency to amaze me. Not even 2 years old  and he can pull the outlet covers out of the sockets (which he doesn’t do much of, thank G-d), and build intricate towers out of his blocks with crazy balancing techniques. I truly enjoy watching him at work when he’s playing a fine motor or manipulative game, and I often wonder if this is going to be a factor in the hobbies and career he will choose someday.

But that’s getting ahead of myself. For now, he’s just a boy exploring the world.

Wanting to find a new fine motor activity,  I decided to let him experiment with eye droppers, colored water, and something to absorb the liquid…which ended up being sugar cubes.

I set out cups filled with water, and added a few drops of food coloring to each of the cups. The sugar cubes were placed on a paper plate in front of my son (who, surprisingly, did not try to eat them), and I gave him the eye droppers.

Having never seen eye droppers before, he had to spend a few minutes learning how to use them. I showed him what to do and eventually he was comfortable with it after a little trial and error. Once he got the hang of it his concentration was hooked to dying the cubes.

For older kids this might be a great science experiment when learning about absorption. For now, it was just a fun way to play with colorful liquid.

And then we did a bonus activity…We pulled out a light box.

Now, our light box is actually something my grandfather built for me when I was a kid so that I could trace stuff while crafting. At the moment I use it for activities like this. Being the extremely handy person that he is, it is a super sturdy and well buil2878756t design that I could not replicate.

There are other ways to get your hands on a light box that doesn’t require the blessing of a handy dandy family member though. You can buy something, such as an unnecessarily fancy and expensive piece. Or a children’s light box that is on the smaller and cheaper end (or something in between). Chances are you will actually have far better luck looking for a light box that was meant for artists. They are much cheaper and more often than not better quality. Just be aware that some boxes do get hot enough to burn.

There is also the option of creating your own, with less skill necessary than what my grandpa used. Pintrest is filled with ideas such as these.

Typically a good light box could work in a well lit room (our box is certainly bright enough), but to make it extra cool we retreated into our laundry room (which can be completely dark with the door shut). Wanting to protect my box from sugary gunk, I put a piece of parchment paper over the surface. Considering just how bright the light is, it also helped to filter the light and protect little eyes.

The sugar cubes looked very neat with the light shining through them, and we were definitely intrigued for a good while. Kiddo spent a lot of time lining them up in various formations, and designing intricate tower structures. That was also an excellent fine motor activity!

It was a  fun experience with an easy clean up, and I felt good incorporating a new fine motor challenge (working the droppers), as well as new ways to play with colors. It’s definitely something I would do again, and I’m sure my son will be very excited when he sees me pulling out the droppers and food coloring!

Clean Mud

Snow days (or if you’re from around here, they’re more like “ice days”) can be fun, but once outside time is over you’re left asking “what now?”. Being trapped in the house can mean a bad case of cabin fever. Throw a toddler into the mix, and you have a situation on your hands.

Needless to say, I had to think of something quick and easy to whip together. We played blocks, trains, cars, read books, colored, and we still found ourselves bored. On top of this, it was getting to be “that hour”.

You know, the one that hits between 3-4 PM where it’s too early for dinner, but the kiddo has just about had it for the day? Yeah.

Much to my relief we had all the ingredients needed to make “clean mud”, and we were able to get through the pre-dinner meltdown hours meltdown free. Even the preparation is an activity in and of itself. We were able to watch the ivory soap experiment (heating it in the microwave), and unraveling the toilet paper was quite exciting.  At first he was a bit unsure of what to make of the actual “mud”, but after a few pokes and probes he quickly realized what fun this could be. It was a parenting win.

Clean Mud
Ingredients
2 bars of ivory soap
1 roll of toilet paper
2 cups warm water

Directions
Heat the ivory soap in the microwave for 1 minute (one bar at a time). If you’ve never put ivory soap in the microwave before, be sure to watch it puff up! In a large bowl, mix the heated soap and water together.

Unravel the toilet paper from the roll, and place it in a container (don’t worry, you will have less mud than the mountain of toilet paper looks like). Carefully pour the water/soap mixture into the pile of toilet paper a little at a time. Knead it all together in between pours. Once everything is well mixed, it’s time to play (as if preparing this stuff wasn’t enough play already)!

Fizz Painting

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a die hard fan of vinegar and baking soda. Between the cool science experiments and the fact that it’s a non-toxic way to clean just about everything, who doesn’t love baking soda and vinegar? It’s a treasure in the land of motherhood.

Which brings us to the very simple art activity of fizz painting.

It requires ingredients that you would usually have laying around the house, so chances are you can make a last minute activity out of this when your children are going bonkers for something to do. As he normally does when I present something new to him, my boy spent the first few minutes simply observing with curiosity as I showed him what to do. The moment he decided to give it a try, however, he was enthralled.

Of course, the activity didn’t end when all the colors were used up. Oh no, not with this little man. The fun continued when he ran to his sensory/art supply shelves and pulled out some fun things to play with, including sponges, paper, and paint brushes. This quickly turned into a full on art project. I know, sometimes that’s a headache to deal with, but it’s also the type of initiative I (personally) like to encourage.

So, although I expected this to be an easy-clean up project , I feel it was even more successful than originally anticipated since he chose to let his creativity loose.

Fizz Painting

What You Need:
Baking soda
Vinegar
Food coloring
Plastic bowls or something to hold the colors in
A 9X13 casserole dish
Eye Droppers

Directions:
Spread a layer of baking soda in the casserole dish.

In each bowl or container, mix food coloring with vinegar.

Use the eye droppers to drop the vinegar into the baking soda, and watch it fizz! For added fun, use the mushy mixture to paint!

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Homemade Scented Play Dough

Homemade play dough is the thing to do these days. I sometimes wonder how much profit Hosbro has lost as Pintrest and mommy-blogs pick up in popularity, spreading the millions of play dough recipes out there.

I’m not against regular store bought play dough. I don’t believe it’s harmful, or that buying it proves someone loves their child less. In fact, I’m most certain that one of these days we’ll have a few store-bought play dough supplies strung around this house.

The creative side of me, however, wins over this time around.  I finally had a chance to try out something I’ve been wanting to do…scented play dough.

I know, I know. Using koolaid powder isn’t everyone’s idea of a good children’s activity. I’ve had a number of crunchy friends shake their head over this. Oh well. We had fun, and as far as I can tell my kid hasn’t grown any weird mutations from playing with such non-organic junk. In fact, I don’t think he ate any of it at all.

If you’re not afraid of koolaid exposure, try this one out. I did find that the colors were not all what I expected. I forgot that the green packets actually turn pinkish once mixed with water. Next time I’ll just mix the yellow and blue (I really wanted the green one). I also will end up skipping some of the pinks since there was an abundance of that, and rather than the regular cherry flavor I’ll give “dark cherry” a try next time. I’m hoping for a deeper red.

I was really happy to see how much fun this stuff brought, and I even had the chance to get some chores done while it had my little guy distracted. For extra fun I threw in spoons, cups, colorful feathers, and popsicle sticks. Next time we play with it (because I did store it for another time) I’ll add in cookie cutters.

Scented Play dough

Ingredients 
(each recipe is for one color,which equals to about 1 regular container of play dough, maybe a little more)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 envelope koolaid mix
2 tsp cream tartar
1 cup water
1 tbs oil

Directions:
Mix flour, salt, koolaid powder, and cream of tartar in a sauce pan. Stir in water and oil. Heat over medium heat, stirring regularly.

Dough will begin to form a clump in the middle of the pan (about 5 minutes). Once desired texture is formed, take the pot off of heat and let dough cool.1424478855.png

Sensory Paint Brushes

My little dude loves painting. Just a couple months ago there seemed to be a sudden artistic spark in him, and now he can’t get enough art time. Being the Reggio Emilia fan that I am, my response to this was to prepare an artistic space just for him right in the unused nook area of the kitchen (with a perfect window to bring in natural light). We snagged a This End Up table my husband used as a child (perfect for his size, yet something he can grow into), strung a piece of rope along the wall of the counter with some clothes pins attached in order to display his artwork, and most importantly we bought a cheap $20 Walmart bookcase to hold his art and sensory supplies. The idea is to keep everything at his level, giving him the freedom to make his own choices and to take hold of his creativity.

The paints are what he most often goes after…of course.

While I love watching him develop his independence, I sometimes like to influence his choices. Today was one of the days I stepped in to change things up.

With it being yet another snow day, I figured we could go all out on the mess making. However, rather than using his normal paintbrushes I decided to take the opportunity to make his art time into sensory play as well. I took his normal collection of supplies and put them out of sight, and instead replaced them with “brushes” I created using scraps of things from around the house.

It was a simple set up, and his interest was certainly peaked. He focused a lot more on experimenting with the different textures I provided, and spent quite awhile playing with the various designs they made.

As all art sessions go, the brushes were eventually abandoned to the favorable use of fingers.

Messy time was most definitely a success.

Alternative Sensory Paintbrushes
Look around the house for various objects and textures you could use in place of paintbrushes. Clothing pins can clip on to most objects, making them easy to grasp. To make things extra interesting, look for items that can be used as stamps as well.

Ideas Include:
Ribbon
Cotton balls
Aluminum foil
Pieces of foam
Pipe cleaners
String
Q-tips
Feathers
A cap from an old cooking spray container (for stamping)
Toilet paper rolls (for stamping)
The wheels of toy cars
Pine cones
Popsicle sticks
Tissue paper

Get creative! Do a quick search around your house to find ideas. The best places to look will probably be the kitchen and bathroom!1424804917.png

Scented Edible Finger Painting

Who doesn’t love finger painting?

Okay. Maybe parents who are easily irritated by mess, but what child doesn’t love finger painting?

If you’re looking for a finger painting activity to do with a baby who is still putting everything in their mouths, or if you’re looking for a new way to experience finger painting in general, this is something you should try!

This paint is completely edible, and the best part is that it has flavorful scents! Definitely an exciting alternative to the same old art project.

Not only is this a great art activity, but it’s also a wonderful sensory project since the child can feel the paint as well as smell it.

Here’s what you need:

Ingredients:
Plain yogurt
Packets of kool aid (various colors)

Directions:
Mix kool aid with yogurt to make paint. And that’s it!