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As I was researching the various crafts you can do with your small child, I found a lot of useful stuff: play dough, watercolors, finger paints, crayons, cutting, sticking, glitter…. All of these activities spark the child’s creativity and curiosity.

However, when I see a recipe, my first instinct is to change it, to add to it and to combine it with something else. Kid’s arts and crafts got the same reaction from me. Since children learn so well through play, why not combine all kinds of arts with all kinds of play: this way both creativity and imagination would become multi-dimensional. The child would be able to draw and paint and build and role-play and dig all at the same time!

As a result, whenever my son and I sit down to do a creative project, it’s never “just play dough” or  “just crayons.” We can start with play dough and make a bird, for example. Then, we take crayons and draw a tree for this bird. Then, we take watercolors and paint the grass under the tree. Then we cut a piece out of dark paper and stick it on the grass: this is how we make a road. Then, we take our toy cars and let them drive on the road.  After the cars have been going for a while, we build a bridge over the road, using matchsticks and glue. Finally, we make a construction site, next to the bridge. We draw it with different color pencils and stick some sand on the paper next to it ( so that the construction workers can dig.) And lastly, we take a teaspoon and dig through the sand.

We have painted gardens for play dough butterflies, we have made play dough roads for our wooden trains, we have put play dough passengers into our toy cars, we have put play dough boats into Tupperware containers full  of water. We have also drawn vases with crayons, to stick some real dried flowers in and we have fed our stuffed animals some play dough fruits and veggies. Oh, and once we made a finger paint soup, but that didn’t work so well.

These games can be endless. The key is incorporating  many senses and materials into an art project. Through creating art this way, the child will see art as a part of real-life, as something fun and tangible. Dolls can play in drawn doll-houses and trucks can ride on play dough roads. Using this simple technique, children learn to make their own world, where they are the creators and the active participants.

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Finger paints are easily found in stores. They are also frequently eaten by little ones. I saw many complicated finger paint recipes online and did not want to try them, because I wanted to make something very simple and also very delicious and relatively healthy: in case one of my kids ingests it. I also wanted to make the creation of finger paints a creative project to do with the kids.

Here’s what I came up with:

Ingredients:

Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix or make a vegan one
Food Coloring (see below)

Make the vanilla pudding according to package directions. Divide into portions and mix in different food coloring for each portion. You are all set for your painting and dessert session.

Commercial food coloring has been scientifically linked to a variety of diseases and disorders. Here are some ideas for dyeing your finger paints with the contents of your fridge and pantry:.

Red

Put a medium sized beet  in a pot with a cup of water. Bring to the boil then gently simmer on stove for about 15 minutes. Once cooled pour through  cheese cloth and mix into the pudding.

Pink

Put a  handful of strawberries and a cup of water in a pot. Bring to the boil and then  simmer for 20 minutes (until liquid has reduced to about half). Once cooled pour through cheese cloth and mix into the pudding.

Green

Put half a cup of spinach or parsley in a pot with a cup of water. Bring to the boil then gently simmer on stove for about 10-15 minutes. Once cooled strain through  cheese cloth and mix into the pudding.

Blue

Put a big handful of blueberries and a cup of water in a pot. Bring to the boil and then  simmer for 20 minutes (until liquid has reduced to about half). Once cooled pour through cheese cloth and mix into the pudding.

Yellow or Orange

Mix some turmeric or curry spice mix into the pudding: 2 tbsp. for yellow, 5-6 for orange.

Purple

Mix the red and the blue paints

Do you have any interesting ideas for making the black and the brown paints?

image: Salvatore Vuono

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