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Water colors are the best kind of paint for little kids because they are intended to be left to dry! There’s no worrying about losing lids or replacing the caps like with other paints, and they’re pretty easy on the stomach should your kids eat one or ten. As cool and convenient as store bought water colors are, I have been trying to help my kids understand that everything comes from somewhere, and by somewhere I do not mean the store! Making simple craft materials from scratch has been a great way of doing just that. Water colors are easy and cheap to make (in fact I didn’t have to leave my house, all of the materials were in my pantry), and with water colors you don’t have to worry about sealable containers. I used party cups just because I happened to have some party cups left over from a party. Otherwise empty ice trays, applesauce, yogurt or those plastic baby food containers would have been perfect.

Step 1: Materials

Googling water color recipes will give you a variety of slightly different methods to try. I went with Martha’s (Stewart, that is) because I figure she would have tested several times before publishing, and I wanted to try a recipe with the best chance of success the first time around. (I'm not lazy, I'm a mom! lol) But there are other recipes I am interested in trying, one in particular that calls for gelatin in place of corn syrup. We’ll make a new batch and compare at some point, but for now here are your materials:

Vinegar

Baking Soda

Cornstarch

Light Corn Syrup

Food Coloring

Small mixing bowl

Forks (for mixing)

Step 2: Mixing It Up

Scoop four tablespoons into the mixing bowl, then add two tablespoons of vinegar – get ready for the fizz! Kids love fizz. :-) Once the bubbles have calmed down add a half teaspoon of corn syrup and two tablespoons of corn starch. The cornstarch can be difficult to blend and is the reason I recommend using forks for mixing.

Step 3: Color Time!

When you are finished mixing your solution it will be thick and stark white. Pour it carefully in equal amounts into small containers. Our next step is to add the color. Not all of you are brave enough to put a vial of food coloring into the hands of a three year old, and that’s ok. My food coloring bottles were almost empty which is the only reason I let my kids do the squeezing. You need between five and ten drops of each color for vivid, eye popping saturation. We mixed blue and red to make purple, but only did five containers. The more containers you divide your mixture between the more fun you can have mixing colors.

Step 4: Wait for It... Ok, Twelve Hours Later You Are All Done!

And voila! That’s it! You’re done! Well, almost. Now comes the hard part – waiting for it to dry. It literally takes twelve hours or more to dry completely, and you will have some separation as the lighter liquids will rise and settle on top, but they’ll dry eventually. We haven’t painted with ours yet, that’ll come in the next post. In the mean time, make some of your own and give it a try! I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts on other ways to do this.
I did this with a bunch of kids today and it was a hit! Looking forward to seeing how they work.
cool instructable. i have a son that is autistic, and a daughter that is an awesome painter. paints are so expensive. my hat's off to you for making it affordable to entertain my kids. now i just hope i can find a way to recycle paper to make water color paper.
i can do that recycling paper bit! :-) actually, its going to be my next instructable. i make recycled, seeded paper. i can modify it to make a heavier weight paper you can use for painting! :-0 instructables take me a while to produce, tho, so don't hold your breath. :-) <br>
Take your time with that next intructable. Watercolor paper is expensive. I'm willing to wait for your instructions!!

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Bio: I'm a stay-at-home mother of three. My children, ages 6, 4, and 2, are the light of my life and my inspiration for crafting ... More »
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