CREATIVE FAMILY FUN: Stir up homemade finger paint

By Donna Erickson

Naomi Adams discovers the sensation of painting with her fingers for the first time. (Photo by Donna Erickson)

Remember catching baby’s first smile and cheering when your toddler took that first wobbly step? Life’s “firsts” are celebrations we don’t want to miss. Keep an eye on everyday moments, too, when young children experience the excitement of the world around them for the first time. Like dipping toes in the bubbly ocean surf, petting a soft puppy or swishing and squishing colorful finger paint on paper with their hands instead of a paintbrush.

If your preschooler’s creative spirit is blossoming this spring, stir up this time-tested recipe for homemade finger paint and let them enjoy a new sensory, artful experience. It’s easy to make and use indoors on a rainy day, or enjoy finger painting outdoors at a picnic table when a friend comes over to play. Then listen for their squeals of delight as they discover a new sensation and create.




1/2 cup cornstarch

3 tablespoons sugar

2 cups cold water

Food coloring or poster paint

Liquid dish detergent

Finger painting paper (available at craft and toy stores, or economize by purchasing a roll of freezer paper at the grocery store.


  1. Let your child measure and stir the cornstarch and sugar together in a saucepan. An adult should add and stir the water into the mixture over medium heat. Continue stirring constantly until it is smooth and just begins to thicken, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat immediately, as it will continue to thicken as it cools. (Note: If you cook it too long, it will turn into an unusable gelatinous goop.)
  2. Divide the smooth mixture into several sections of a muffin tin or small bowls. Add food coloring and a drop of detergent to each portion. Stir with a spoon until blended. Experiment with different color combinations, if you wish.
  3. To use: On a newspaper-covered work surface, set out the paints and a sheet of the finger-painting paper or freezer paper, shiny side up. Dip fingers and hands into the paint and make designs on the paper.


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© 2022 Donna Erickson

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