How to Make Inexpensive Art Supplies for Kids

Kids love creating their own works of art -- painting, drawing, sculpting -- but the cost of the supplies needed to produce these masterpieces can really add up! Save money by whipping up homemade substitutes for items such as finger paint, modeling clay and even crayons. Use common household items to make your own art supplies for far less than you'd spend by purchasing them at the craft store.

Create inexpensive finger paint by mixing powdered laundry detergent with a little water until it's about the consistency of cake frosting. Divide the soap mix into small containers. Tint each batch with a few drops of food coloring. Alternatively, mix plain white or clear school glue with baking soda until it's as thick as you desire. Divide it and add food coloring.

Cut the crusts off a slice of stale bread. Crumble the bread and mix it with a small dab of school glue. Squish the bread and glue together until they make a gooey clay. Add a few drops of water and dish detergent if the clay is too dry. Add a few drops of food coloring. Allow the kids to mold and model shapes which can then air-dry. Alternatively, make low-budget play dough by mixing together equal parts of sand, cornstarch and boiling water. Tint the mixture, using food coloring.

Turn old, broken crayons into new ones by melting them in a greased muffin pan or metal candy mold in a 350 degree oven. Alternatively, melt the crayons in the top of a double boiler on the stove or in a microwave-safe plastic bowl in the microwave on "High" for a minute or two. Pour the melted wax into metal or plastic molds. Put similarly-colored crayon pieces together or mix and match for multicolored crayons. Alternatively, make affordable soap crayons by mixing powdered laundry detergent with a small amount of water and food coloring until it feels somewhat like clay and can be molded. Form the soap mixture into big, chunky crayon "logs." Allow the crayons to dry before using.

Stir up a batch of homemade glitter for pennies by tinting 1/2 half cup of salt with a drop or two of food coloring. Mix the color into the salt thoroughly, and then spread it onto a cookie sheet to let it dry before using. Turn your homemade glitter into sparkling glitter gel once it has dried by mixing 1 to 2 teaspoons of glitter with 1/4 cup of hair gel. Keep the glitter gel in an airtight container so it doesn't dry out.

Create edible paints and play dough 4. Set out small cups or bowls of condensed or evaporated milk, whipped cream or clear corn syrup. Add a few drops of food coloring to make paint that is not only cheap, but safe to eat. Alternatively, stir 1/2 cup of cold water into a 3-ounce packet of flavored gelatin powder to make another colorful, edible paint. Mix one-part peanut butter to two-parts powdered sugar to make an economical, yet tasty, play dough. Drizzle in a few spoonfuls of honey to help your dough stick together -- up to about half the amount of peanut butter used. Substitute cream cheese for the peanut butter if your kids have nut allergies.


No need to use salon-quality hair gel for the glitter gel; the brand from the dollar store will work just fine. Kids can dab or paint this on top of their painting or drawing to give it that extra sparkle.


Paint made with food coloring may stain clothing.

Never leave melting wax unattended as it can be highly flammable.