PRIME TIME WITH KIDS: Make bugs that don’t bite with insulating foam

Donna Erickson

There’s so much to see and do outdoors this time of year. Even the tiniest details possess a bit of wonder for kids. Twigs, leaves, stones, pinecones, acorns and a favorite fascination: bugs!

These bugs don’t bite when kids use their imagination to design and paint bug-like creatures. The roundish body is a foam form that emerges from a can of insulating foam sealant, available at hardware stores.

Maybe you already have a can, if you are filling in some gaps and cracks in your home to stop drafts before winter. That’s the home-improvement project my friend Tom Troffey, an educator and dad, was doing when he discovered the potential for kids’ play and creativity as he squirted the extra remaining foam from the can into 2-inch ball shapes on a sheet of waxed paper and let them dry.

An idea was born! He made dozens of “blobs” that school-age kids could paint and decorate to resemble bugs during the arts-and-crafts class he taught at a summer camp.

“It was so much fun to see how young children could imagine and transform a plain white ball of hardened foam with paint, pipe cleaners and wire into an original, colorful creature,” he said. “Once completed, they had a great time using their eye-catching bug and caterpillar creations for storytelling, learning and play.”

If you are looking for a new art project for your young kids, make bugs that invade but won’t crawl around your house. Only adults should make the foam shapes. Once dried and firmed overnight, kids do the designing.

Here’s the stuff you need:

—can of insulating foam sealant from the hardware store. I used Great Stuff brand.

—waxed paper


—acrylic paint in small bottles, and paintbrushes

—pipe cleaners and/or wire

Here’s the fun:

1. An adult should carefully follow instructions on the can and point the attachable nozzle over a sheet of waxed paper set on a flat surface. For basic bugs, make roundish blobs approximately 2 inches in diameter, or let your creativity loose and make shapes for snakes, lizards, etc. Let the foam harden overnight.

2. Now get kids involved. Poke a toothpick into the shape for a handle. Dab different colors of paint around the “body” to design an original bug. Let dry.

3. Insert pipe cleaners and wire in different directions for legs and antennae. Name it and play with it.

Note: The “blobs” can be the basis of limitless art activities. Use toothpicks to connect shapes for modern art sculptures or wild creatures.


Donna Erickson’s award-winning series “Donna’s Day” is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit and link to the NEW Donna’s Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is “Donna Erickson’s Fabulous Funstuff for Families.”

© 2017 Donna Erickson

Distributed by King Features Syndicate