Providing fun opportunities for creative exploration for children does not have to be expensive or time consuming. It does often get messy, but that’s an important part of the experience. 🙂
Today we got a little messy with a sensory experience using homemade finger paint.
- large sheets of white paper
- homemade finger paint
- food coloring to make super dark blue or black (think night)
- lots of little hands
Put it all together with some Halloween stories and talking about night and how its getting darker while we are out playing now. Perfect time to explore making a dark colored finger paint. What you have is a sensory experience that includes color theory, science, math and language.
We started by exploring the feel of cornstarch and the feel then taste of sugar. We followed the written recipe, counting out parts, exploring what happened when water added to solids and then set the timer for 5 minutes.
This finger paint will pull together in 5 to 10 minutes depending on heat level and recipe size. It didn’t make sense to have the children just standing around while I stirred over the heat source. With the timer they get to play until set time has past, learning about the timer as a tool and building on idea of time.
Once finger paint formed we did a visual exploration of the change in texture and watched the steam, as I continued to whip to speed cooling. Then it was time to add the color.
We worked to a deep blue than in went yellow and red. We have been learning that all 3 primary colors give us a black/brown color. Today we learned that with more blue we went to the blacker side. (Be prepared – heavy food coloring will definitely color hands.)
Then it was time to suit up with paint shirts, find a place to work, and start exploring this finger paint.
This hands-on exploration of our “night paint” went on for over 20 minutes. Lots of excited talking and exploration around how movement of hands and fingers changed the paint on the paper, besides just the sensory of it on our hands and a taste or two.
I’ve included 2 simple homemade finger paint recipes here which I have used many times over my years of teaching. Both work, but I usually go to the cooked version. An extra benefit with the cooked is that it is gluten-free, so all children can be involved without concern.
Homemade Finger Paint:
1) How easy is this! Take 2 cups of any kind of flour you have, add COLD water until it forms a fairly smooth paste free of any big lumps. Now slowly add BOILING water, stirring constantly until it forms the right consistency. Add food coloring for an edible finger paint, or tempera paint.
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2) A Cooked Finger Paint (This size batch usually has little left to store.)
- 1/2 cup of cornstarch OR 1 cup of flour (I like using cornstarch – seems smoother.)
- 4 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 cups of cold water
- Food coloring
- Pinch of Salt
Mix all of the ingredients, except the food coloring, together in a medium pan. Cook over a med/low heat, stirring the mixture until it is smooth and thick. Takes 10 minutes or so. It thickens quickly at the end. Once it has thickened turn the burner off and let it cool. After cooling divide the finger paint into separate storage containers and add food coloring. Make sure the lids are on tight while storing so it doesn’t dry out.
I like to keep it uncolored to start adding coloring as needed for use. It’s easy to mix a few drops of food coloring into a small amount just before using.