Recently I was wondering if S. would enjoy finger painting, I thought why not? She could have a lot of fun smearing paint around. I didn’t want to give her paints that weren’t safe to eat since I was sure they would get in her mouth one way or another. Basically, I wanted edible finger paint. I looked online and found some non-toxic, baby safe finger paints, but they were expensive (like up to $30!) and had mixed reviews. Then I decided that maybe I could make my own. I found a paint recipe on tinkerlab.com that used condensed milk and food coloring. You can see the original TinkerLab post here. The recipe wasn’t finger paint specific, but I figured it really didn’t matter since I knew it would be more of an experience for S. than anything else. I also decided to try to make the paints even more baby safe and edible by using food products for coloring instead of regular store bought food coloring. Here is a list of the ingredients that I used:
The only thing I had to buy just for the project was the condensed milk, so the total cost of the project was $1.50 (the price of a store brand can of condensed milk).
The first thing I did was prepare all the coloring ingredients. I started with the frozen blueberries. I put a small handful of the blueberries in a pan and then put it on the stove on low heat to melt the blueberries. I’ll note here that I probably really only needed about two or three blueberries to achieve enough coloring, but I wasn’t quite sure so I figured too much was better than not enough.
Next, I put the blueberries through a strainer to get rid of the blueberry skins. The end result was a pretty thick syrup which I was quite pleased with since it was definitely thicker than the blueberry juice I was expecting.
Next up were the beets. I had some really old, freezer burned beets that had been living in our freezer for a while. I took a couple pieces of beet out and put them in the pan just like the blueberries and then put the pan back on the stove on low heat (I washed the pan first so that there wouldn’t be any color cross-contamination). I found out that low was pretty important to make sure that nothing burned. I kind of mashed the beets around in the pan with a fork as they thawed to get the beet juice out of them.
I put the beets through the strainer just like the blueberries, but unlike the blueberries, the consistency was more of a juice than a syrup. Regardless, I figured it would work because the resulting color was so bright.
Next, I moved on to the spinach. I put a handful of spinach in my little Magic Bullet, but you could probably put it in any blender or even cook it down in a little bit of water to get it to release the color.
S. was napping and it sounded like the Bullet might be disturbing her so I only got a little blending done before I decided it wasn’t worth risking waking a sleeping baby (never wake a sleeping baby right?) so this is what my spinach looked like when I finished blending it:
For the blueberries, beets, and spinach I could have gotten away with preparing way less than I did, it really didn’t end up taking a lot of any of these ingredients to make a the little bit of color necessary to dye the condensed milk. For the remaining ingredients (carrot juice, cinnamon, and turmeric) there was no preparation needed. After all the prep work had been done for the food coloring ingredients, the next thing to do was to get out the condensed milk. I put about two tablespoons of condensed milk in each of six small condiment cups.
I started mixing in a small amount of each of the “color foods” into the condensed milk. I just used a small baby spoon to mix everything in the cups and overall the mixing went pretty quick. I kind of guessed how much of each of the colors to mix in at first, but here is what ended up working for me:
1/2 Tsp. Blueberries
1/2 Tsp. Beets
1 Tsp. Spinach juice
1 Tsp. Carrot juice
1/4 Tsp. Cinnamon
1/8 Tsp. Turmeric
For the spinach I just scooped out the juice part from the half blended handful of spinach I had, it probably would have been better if the spinach had been fully blended, but it worked. The spinach juice and carrot juice made the condensed milk a little bit thinner than the other ingredients, but not enough to matter and I found that I needed a full teaspoon to achieve the color that I wanted. The cinnamon I could have only used an 1/8th teaspoon, but I wanted a darker brown so after the first 1/8th teaspoon I added another 1/8th teaspoon. You can see the progression in the photo series below:
Here is what my final six cups of finger paint looked like when I was done. From top left to bottom right, the coloring foods used are frozen blueberries, turmeric powder, spinach, carrot juice, cinnamon powder, and beets.
You can see that small pieces of blueberry skin did go through my strainer so maybe it would be better to use cheese cloth or a really fine strainer if you are concerned about the skins. The only color I wasn’t amazed by was the carrot juice, but it still was a descent orange color.
The next step was to set up the painting area for S. For this we just taped large pieces of paper on the concrete patio. I waited for a hot sunny day so that we could hose S. off afterward, but I still tried to tape the paper into the small amount of shade that we had on the patio.
My husband works in an office where they print a lot of large maps so there are always a lot of large pieces of “scrap” paper. If you don’t have any large pieces of paper on hand you could try asking around at print shops, engineering offices, schools, or any other places that might have large scrap paper from printing maps, building plans, blueprints, etc.
Overall I was pretty pleased with the results. The whole time I was preparing the finger paints S. was napping so I had to wait for her to wake up. When she did we put her in an old long sleeve onesie and a sun hat and took her outside to show her the wonderful finger painting activity I had set up for her. First, S. poked at the brown paint we put in front of her.
And that was it. She was done. After that she wanted nothing to do with the great, edible, finger paints that I had just spent over an hour making for her. Big sigh. Maybe she was just distracted by being outside, but I think she didn’t really like the sticky consistency of the condensed milk once it got on her hands. We tried different ways to entice her to play with the finger paints, but nothing worked, she didn’t want to touch them and kept running off into the yard. So we put a little water in her pool and gave her the cups of paint in there. Add water to any activity and S. loves it.It really just made a milky colored water mess except for where she dumped the paints down her shirt. The turmeric left some bright yellow marks on her onesie and the blueberry paint left some splotches as you can see in the photos below, but she didn’t even notice (or care).
Overall I was really pleased with how the condensed milk, edible finger paints turned out even if S. wasn’t. The foods I chose to add for coloring made some really nice colors and they weren’t too hard to prepare. I had the paints made and everything cleaned up during S.’s nap (I think it was a little over an hour total). To speed the process up in the future I think I might try grape juice instead of beets or blueberries, or I could just make fewer colors. I also think I might try a different base next time since I think S. didn’t like how sticky the condensed milk was. Right now I am thinking maybe yogurt would give a nice, less sticky, finger paint texture, but I am going to look around for other good ideas as well. While S. didn’t really care for the finger painting, she did have a good time in the end and that is all that really matters. A happy little girl makes a happy mama.