Easy Finger-painted Father’s Day Gift


My husband was sweet enough to have his birthday in June, just about the time Father’s day falls.  Birthday gifts are hard enough, let alone father’s day gifts!  So as I was racking my brain for a father’s day gift from Little O, I saw this idea pinned on Pinterest. Bingo! I had my idea.

Masking is a technique often used by painters…usually pretty easy to do, and I figured this was a cinch. I decided to use the text “i dad” and got to work.  The first step is to prepare your surface.  You can use canvas, canvas paper, cardstock, board, watercolor paper, whatever.  Just be sure that the tape you use is compatible with your surface (i.e. masking tape will probably rip watercolor paper, but painter’s tape might not.)

I used canvas paper.  It looks like this:


Basically it is a piece of canvas already primed with gesso.  It is unmounted, so you can put it in a frame.  I used plain old masking tape to create the message, tearing it for the effect I wanted around the edges.

Then I set up the finger-painting station.  I SHOULD have put Little O in his high chair and let him paint there…thus ensuring that the paint would stay in one general location.  But because the tray was too small for the paper, I set up my station like this:


Notice how my paint tray is taped down?  I still think this is a good idea, but it didn’t keep the paint from wandering, because the kid wasn’t tied down! We did  have a drop cloth which limited the “damage” to the table. I used some inexpensive tempera paints.  I decided that I haven’t tried enough finger paint recipes to know if any of them dry well and have good “archival” qualities.  So since this tempera was non-toxic and washable, that’s what we used.  I took Little O’s shirt off so all we’d need to wash was his skin. Even though I took extra care to keep his hands out of his mouth, he still did a face-plant onto the painted surface of the canvas, so just be extra careful if you are using anything you don’t want in your little one’s mouth.

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In these process photos you can see how things progressed.  I gave Little O a foam brush, which he absolutely loved, and I had to show him how to use his fingers.  He used both for a while and then I took the brush away and helped him finish the painting with his fingers.

The finished product.  We didn’t get the top done because Little O kept trying to leave the area.  20130524_151622

The next step is to let it dry and then peel the tape off.


You can see that the paint bled underneath the tape.  There are several reasons why this happened.  1-the canvas pad surface is textured. 2-I didn’t press down hard enough on the edges. 3-the lettering was too narrow.

I decided that I liked the effect, and the more I look at this, the more I love it!  I think it goes well with the “torn” edges of the tape.  If you don’t like it and want a clean letter, there are a few things you can do.  First, don’t use a textured surface. Use heavy card stock or paper with a smooth finish, or you can use wood.  Second, get good tape and press down around the edges.  If you do those thing, I think even narrow lettering would work well.

The last step was to trim it down to fit in the frame and viola!  Little O has a cool gift for dad.

20130524_162931Materials Used:

  • canvas pad or canvas, watercolor paper, card stock, or board
  • washable paints (I used tempera)
  • water to clean your brushes
  • drop cloth or something to protect painting surface
  • painter’s tape
  • fingers (brushes also work)
  • 8×10 frame

Scribble Station: round two

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about turning your coffee table into a scribble station.  Our original scribble station quickly became a paper-ripping station, and when I decided to cover the table with paper again I had a brilliant idea! The paper that I had used to cover our table required two widths to get the job done.  I taped the first layer down with small pieces of tape, and then used one long piece of tape to tape the top piece down.  I noticed that when I was scribbling with Little O, I was drawn to scribble over the pieces of tape because I liked the texture that resulted.  It was like I was doing a rubbing.  For Scribble Station: round two, I decided it would be fun to put tape down on the table before I put the paper on.  Stickers or vinyl would also work, but I had tape so that’s what I went with.


Stripes were the easiest thing to do, so down they went.  Little O had fun taking the tape off as fast as I was putting it on.

Round two stayed on the table longer than the first version, and I kept the crayons on the table.  I noticed that pretty much everyone who came over commented on the table if they didn’t try it out.  We had several contributors.


You can see where the tape is in the top left corner (I turned the table and took the picture from a different angle than the one above).  I couldn’t resist it.  You can also see that Little O turned this into a paper-ripping station again, and I got this photo just in the nick of time!  Here the adults’ scribbles are easily seen; but be assured that Little O’s scribbles cover the perimeter of the table–he just doesn’t press as hard so his marks are harder to see in the photo.

If you do this project, I would recommend using painter’s tape–it comes off much easier than masking tape.  They even have a version now for freshly painted surfaces which I imagine would be the least sticky of all, but work fine for creating texture underneath your paper.

Hello, Red Fox


At the library the other day I was trying to find Eric Carle’s The Hungry Caterpillar. Luckily for me, it was checked out and I found Hello, Red Fox instead.  I was intrigued by this green fox masquerading as a red fox, so we brought it home.

I opened the cover, and immediately Little O wanted to turn the pages, so away we went.  I quickly realized that this book was a bit unusual, but with Little O speedily turning pages it was hard for this mama to fully appreciate.  Little O loved the brightly colored animals and we went through the book a couple of times.  Once he went down for his nap, I had a bit of time to myself to really dig in.

The unusual thing I noticed while Little O was turning pages as fast as he could was that on each left-hand page there was an illustration of a brightly colored animal.  On each right-hand page there was a small black dot.  I knew what these little black dots were for, and was delighted that Carle had crafted a book that introduces the concept of complimentary colors, or “opposite” colors using afterimages.


Basically what happens is that when you stare at a color long enough, and then look at a white page, you’ll see the same image, only in the opposite color of the original image.  (So the orange fish pictured will be blue in the afterimage.)  There is a scientific explanation for this phenomena, having to do with your rods and cones tiring out and sending weak and strong signals to your brain, but I’ll let you look that up if you’re really interested.

Little O is a bit too young to appreciate the phenomenon of afterimages, but older kids will have fun with this book.  I recommend checking it out from the library and have some fun with complimentary colors!

Cardboard City

My friend Amanda has four kids, ages 6, 4, 2, and 9 months.  She comes from an early childhood education background, and she has some parenting habits that I think are awesome.  For example, she has “art time” every day with her kids.  Talk about fostering creativity!

Anyway, I told Amanda that I had to get in on this “art time” with her, and the other day we had our first play date.  She was focusing on the theme “construction” with her kids this particular week.

We decided to help the kids create a cardboard city.  First we talked with them about what kinds of buildings they’d find in a city.  Peter (6) immediately said that we could find a skyscraper in a city.  Penny Lane (4) said a house, and Lucy (2) went with her sister’s suggestion.

Each of the kids picked out a box they wanted to work with, and immediately got to work putting on windows, doors, roofs, sidewalks, etc.


Peter decided to make some roads and everyone chose a spot for their building.


Penny Lane decided the city needed a horse.  Is that a stable she’s building?


And of course we needed cars.  I think I just might be in love with that round tower. Marina Towers in Chicago, anyone?

Searching for a great finger-paint recipe: part 1

I’ve been seeing recipes for “edible finger paint” all over the internet recently, and I wanted to try some out.  I was interested in them mainly because Little O puts everything into his mouth and I knew the moment we started with paint he’d be eating it.  So I decided that edible finger paints were the way to go.

My criteria for a “great” recipe are as follows:

  1. The recipe must feel and act like paint (viscous and good color, especially after drying.)
  2. I wanted it to be edible, but since this is not the primary function, I didn’t want to encourage eating it.  So no sweetness.
  3. I wanted it to be easy to make.
  4. I didn’t want it to stain easily.

There are probably other criteria to consider, but these were my top four.  Yesterday Little O’s cousin came over and we made our first attempt.  We tried a simple corn starch and water recipe.

I decided to use vegetable dyes, because I thought these would be pretty easy to make and I was the most comfortable with these kind of dyes if Little O put any paint into his mouth. I just experimented with things that I already had in my kitchen.


Clockwise from the top left:

  • green–food coloring
  • mauve–blueberries mixed with a few blackberries
  • red–beet juice
  • orange–beet juice mixed with turmeric
  • purple–purple sweet potato
  • yellow–turmeric

I was pleased with the colors–they were a little muted and not artificially bright, but dark enough to show up on the paper even after drying.  I did cheat on the green though.  I wanted to try using spinach but I didn’t have any, so I just used food coloring, and immediately regretted it.  Not only does the green look weird, but it was the only paint color that stained my fingers! I’ll definitely avoid food coloring in the future.

As you can probably see from the picture, the paints started to gel once they cooled.  I wished they stayed a bit more viscous.  The recipe was super easy, though, and the kids had fun.


I’ll give the corn starch paint recipe 3 out of 4 stars since it did meet 3 of my four requirements, but I’ll keep looking.  If you’d like to try this recipe out, the paint and color recipes follow below.

Corn Starch Finger Paint

  • 1 cup corn starch, dissolved in water (enough to dissolve ALL the starch…no lumps)
  • 3 cups water

Place corn starch in a bowl.  Add enough lukewarm water to dissolve all of it and mix thoroughly.  Boil 3 cups of water in saucepan.  Remove from heat.  Add dissolved corn starch mixture and stir.  Replace mixture over heat, and continue to stir continuously until mixture thickens and turns translucent.  Divide into bowls and add dye until you like the color (more dye=more vibrant).  Mix thoroughly.

Vegetable Dyes

Basically you’ll want to take the source material (veggie or fruit) and simmer it with a little bit of water over low to medium heat until the plant material breaks down and the water becomes colored.  The longer you simmer, the more intense the color.  Just be careful not to simmer the water away.  Strain through a strainer and press all the juices out of the veggies/fruit.  I used a handful of berries or chopped veggies (1 tsp of the turmeric) to about 1/2 inch of water in a small saucepan.  If you are using canned beets (I did), just use the colored juice.


Scribble Station

Little O is a few days away from his first birthday.  He hasn’t started walking yet, but he loves to pull himself up and walk around the coffee table.  Lately he’s been grabbing pens out of my hand while I’m writing and tries to mimic me.  It’s so cute to see him try to write!

Since he has an interest in making marks and the table is just his height, I decided to make a scribble station for him.

I got some rolls of newsprint from a local newspaper for $2 each.  (They can’t use the rolls once there is less than about an inch of paper on them, so they sell them for cheap–and there is a lot of paper left…perfect for scribbling or scratch paper or paper for the floor during painting.)

Then I wrapped my table like a gift, and taped down all the edges. (Little O loves to rip paper and I wanted to keep this as a scribble station for as long as possible.)


I added crayons and let the scribbling begin!


If you need convincing that your child’s scribbling is important, read this article by researcher Susan Rich Sheridan who says that scribbling 1) helps your child to pay attention and sustain attention, 2) stimulates cells in the visual cortex of the brain that focus on line and shape, 3) helps child practice organizing patterns of thought and 4) prepares the mind for literacy.

I think this scribble station is going to be a main-stay at my house.