13 Textures to Paint With

by Deb on July 1, 2010

Playing in mud

Kids love playing in mud – it’s what they’re supposed to do.  Babies love the feel of different textures to squish and squeeze.  But it doesn’t always fit in with our lives, and sometimes there’s just no mud to be had.  So here are some substitutes that are Mummy and baby friendly:

  1. Oatmeal – Mix some up with boiling water and let it cool.  Great to squish through the fingers.
  2. Slime – A simple cornflour/water slime is easy to mix up.  Use real cornflour and it is stir-thickening, that means it is liquid if you are slow and gentle but gets thicker if you squeeze it or try to mix it quickly.
  3. Flour/water pasteAbout a tablespoon of flour with some boiling water, how much depends on how thick you want it.  Makes a fantastic glue or fascinating finger paint with some food colouring.
  4. Shaving cream – A favourite for the side of the house or themselves.  Great if you have some powdered paint to mix in, or put a drop of food colouring on top then squish it through your fist.
  5. Poster paint – The lovely thick stuff.  Either paint onto paper or smear it playdougharound on a table then press paper onto the top.
  6. Playdough – just straight playdough is fun to use with tools like garlic presses or cookie cutters, or add some rice, pasta or glitter for a sensory playdough.
  7. Cooked pasta – or rather overcooked until it’s nice and gluggy.  Spaghetti broken into little pieces is great to squish, or long pieces that are a bit harder can be dragged through paint for a great effect.  Older kids with good manual dexterity can even use them to stamp wiggly lines or spirals then gently lift them again.
  8. Dry pasta – Use spirals, shells or farfalle (bowties) with paint.  You can use them as stamps, roll them through paint, or hold them as brushes.
  9. Gelatine – Make up some gelatine but don’t set it completely.  Little ones can squish and splash, older ones can use it for marbling – float paint on top and swirl it around with a toothpick then lay your paper down on it.
  10. Glitter glue – very cheap from $2 shops, or make your own with flour paste.  It’s a nice change from finger painting because it has the glitter texture in there as well.
  11. Nuts and seed pods – Collect lots of different nuts, seed pods, leaves and twigs from your garden or park.  Then use them like paint brushes or like the dry pasta.
  12. Ricedry rice is a lovely indoor substitute for a sandpit, add a bit of food colouring in a plastic bag and shake it to make easy coloured rice.
  13. Wood shavings – Easy for people with a handyman in the family, or you can sharpen all the pencils and keep the sharpenings.  They are fun because they are remarkably light but you can still put your hands in and stir them around.  They are great to glue on collages as well, giving a very different texture.

What sorts of messy, gluggy things do you play with? This post is part of the We Play linkup at Childhood 101.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Marita July 1, 2010 at 9:18 am

Did you see my recent We Play post about our attempt to make Moon Sand 😀 It failed but we had lots of fun regardless.

Cookie dough is a fun thing to play with too – and the cooking process kills the kids germs, although I make very sure they wash their hands well first.

Also bread dough, my girls are really getting into helping me make breadrolls.
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Deb July 1, 2010 at 10:13 am

I’ll have to check out moon sand! We love cooking too, but that would be a whole new list 🙂 We love homemade pasta as well, the kneading is great fun.


Janet July 2, 2010 at 12:01 am

sounds like a whole lotta fun!


Heather July 2, 2010 at 1:55 am

You are far more daring to work with such messy mediums than most moms I know. Me personally…I prefer making cards with my rubber ink stamps and decorative papers.
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Alice Audrey July 2, 2010 at 2:12 am

A non-toxic form of playdough can be made, too, but you have to keep it in the refrigerator when it’s not is use.
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Deb July 2, 2010 at 10:09 am

That’s what we use, the girls love being able to make it themselves then play with it. We put different oils and colours in to make it interesting.


Harriet July 2, 2010 at 3:12 am

How fun!!!
Great list.

Have a great day!
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Rachael July 2, 2010 at 3:21 am

I love slime, my mom used to make that for us. Even as an adult, it’s still fascinating. And, after you play with it you can look up videos on YouTube of people walking across pools filled with it!


Deb July 2, 2010 at 10:16 am

What a good idea, I’ll have to look them up. I can see how it would work, if you walk slowly you’d sink, but running quickly would get you across.


jehara July 2, 2010 at 4:24 am

Playdough was one of my favorite things to play with as a kid.


Deb July 2, 2010 at 10:17 am

So much fun, we have some permanently in the fridge and a big box of tools.


jill conyers July 2, 2010 at 8:00 pm

At one time or another my kids and I have painted with all of these. Fun list!
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Kristine July 2, 2010 at 9:31 pm

I must try out some of these that we haven’t done when we get back from our holiday.


Julie July 3, 2010 at 3:34 am

Corn starch and water is a favorite at our house.


Jenny C July 3, 2010 at 9:26 am

A few add-ons for some of these great activities…
I love playdough and have found that even much older kids have a ball with it – I have fond memories of a bunch of teenage boys having a great time on a coast trip, spending hours making crazy interactive stories with the playdough I had taken for the toddlers! Adding glitter to playdough is also fun for a change (and makes a great present too!).
I have used the shaving cream with my Girl Guides, adding drops of food colouring then swirling it around with a skewer to make patterns. We then made prints by pressing paper down on top. Once you scrape the excess off you get really lovely paper. Messy but great fun!


kimberly July 4, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Great list although i work in a migrant program and we do not use “food” items in our explorations…so many of our families have serious food shorages and it seems wrong to play with food that could feed so many…it does limit our sensory experiences but we just try harder to find those in other places.


Deb July 4, 2010 at 11:52 pm

That’s a great point, I’ve never thought of it. We really are priveleged that something like rice can be a cheap toy, but it feeds half the world.


joyce:waddleeahchaa.com July 7, 2010 at 3:40 am

Sand at the beach has to be our all time fun texture item. At home we love anything to do with water.


Bec July 8, 2010 at 8:33 pm

What a great list you have made here!!
I’m sure I will be coming back to it again and again.


Christie - Childhood 101 July 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

You are the queen of lists 🙂 What a great resource.
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I like Homemade Playdough January 25, 2011 at 7:56 am

Playdough is my personal favourite! But if the child knows that it is edible, you must remember not to add glitter on something like that! Instead of non-edible ingredients you can add some coloured rice! it looks really beautiful!
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mikelis March 23, 2011 at 2:49 am

glitter playdough definately looks nice, but I don`t suggest yout tu use it, if the kids have played with edible playdough before 😉
only you could try to add some “sugar glitter”(?) ore something that glitters and is also edible 🙂
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